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Saudi Arabian authorities work with Chinese IT giants on digital goals

Saudi Arabia has signed two agreements with Chinese IT suppliers as it strives to deliver its ambitious programme to diversify its economy

Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) will work with China’s Alibaba Cloud and Huawei in projects that aim to harness artificial intelligence (AI) for smart city developments and workforce transformation.

Both agreements are part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reach its targeted goals for its Vision 2030 programme, which aims to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence in oil sales.

The NCAI will work with Huawei to train local AI engineers to ensure a pipeline of skills is available to support a diversified and data-driven economy, while Alibaba Cloud technologies will support Saudi Arabia’s smart city ambitions.

Majid Altuwaijri, CEO at the NCAI, said the work with Huawei will transform Saudi Arabia’s workforce so that it can utilise the power of data and AI. “This will be done through education, upskilling and reskilling of Saudis to create a steady supply of data and AI-empowered talent for the country’s workforce,” said Altuwaijri.

Meanwhile Alibaba Cloud has agreed to work with the NCAI to develop digital and AI for smart cities. Through Alibaba Cloud’s AI Platform, they will jointly develop in areas including safety and security, mobility, urban planning, energy, education and health.

Altuwaijri said: “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 has clear goals to transform KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] cities into smart cities by unlocking the value of city data as a national asset.”

He added that the country’s smart city project is well underway in Riyadh City. “This partnership with Alibaba Cloud will support the acceleration of the transformation of our cities, through enabling intelligence-driven technologies and AI techniques that will fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life to our citizens,” he said.

Separately, Saudi Arabia is to share its AI skills with developing world. The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) is working with the World Bank to support developing countries harness the technology.

Beginning in Africa, the SDAIA will assist countries in creating policies and initiatives that harness the power of AI to support national development and growth. It seeks to identify gaps in the ability for developing nations to utilise AI and data and develop their own AI policies

Abdullah Alwagait, director of the National Information Center, said: “Data and AI are at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and through the development of our own AI agenda and policies, we have developed skills and resources that we want to share to ensure that all nations are equally prepared to harness the value of AI.”

Makhtar Diop, vice-president of infrastructure at the World Bank, said AI creates opportunities to solve complex development challenges to end poverty and build prosperity.

“The technology also comes with risks which, if left unattended, can threaten to inflate the widening AI divide between – and within – developing countries, increasing social inequality and leaving millions, if not billions, even further behind.

“This initiative aims to help governments harness AI technologies while adopting the appropriate safeguards for ensuring privacy and protection as well as inclusivity and unbiased algorithms.”

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