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Saudi Arabian government commitment to metaverse technology attracts KPMG investment, with the creation of a centre of excellence in the Gulf state.
Working with IT suppliers Microsoft, Ericsson and Metakey, KPMG will use the centre to accelerate the development and adoption of the metaverse as well as digital twin technologies in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region.
As part of the agreement, Microsoft will provide the infrastructure and gaming platform, the centre will use Ericsson’s 5G technology and network, and Metakey will develop 3D objects.
Analyst Forrester defined the metaverse as an immersive experience of interoperable and interlinked environments that will be delivered via a variety of devices. According to its report, The state of the metaverse, it will be delivered in stages, building out to a decentralised platform that puts a 3D experience on top of the World Wide Web.
Maz Hussain, head of digital lighthouse at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, said there has been “immense” financial commitment to explore the public utility of metaverse in the oil-rich country.
“A digital-first principle is to be applied across all the services to be delivered from this centre of excellence, which means that it will provide an incubation function to several technology capabilities that will be required to deliver a differentiated offering to the market,” he added. “Metaverse will help make Saudi firms more competitive and open up global opportunities.”
The centre was launched at Saudi Arabia-based annual tech event Leap Conference 2023, held in Riyadh, where more than 100,000 tech experts visited from across the globe.
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Saudi Arabia plans to create opportunities to use the technologies in the government, public and private sectors across various industries.
Zainab Alamin, vice-president of digital transformation and sustainability at Microsoft Arabia, said the application of metaverse technologies supports the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 programme, which is increasing the focus on its digital economy, and part of the country’s economic diversification and efforts to reduce its dependence on oil sales.
KPMG has allocated a dedicated co-investment fund for metaverse use cases in Saudi Arabia to work together with public and private partners on expediting the technology for practical use.
“With the traction we see in the market, we are very optimistic about the future of metaverse and Web3 technologies in Saudi Arabia,” said Hussain. “With our centre of excellence, guided by an advisory board of global ecosystem partners and with a dedicated team of specialists from academia and industry, we will be very focused on use case development in Saudi Arabia.”
It is very early days for the metaverse, but chief information officers and chief technology officers will still need to develop a strategy to ensure they have the right mix of skills and technical infrastructure to provide the business with a metaverse experience when it is needed. Last year, Forrester recommended that IT leaders develop a strategy to assess, manage and prioritise key technologies that are enabling the metaverse.
Like other countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is reducing its economic dependency on oil and gas. Tech is seen as a critical part of this, with the use of advanced technology in Saudi companies increasing, as well as investment in tech startups.
Huge revenues from traditional fossil fuel extraction industries in these countries are being reinvested in the digital technologies of the future.
At the Leap event, the Saudi Arabian government said it will spend more than $9bn to support future technologies and emerging companies in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia announced that it was investing $6.4bn at the same event last year.