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Saudi Arabia launches $1.2b in tech initiatives

Kingdom aims to improve digital skills of 100,000 Saudi youngsters by 2030
Saudi Arabia has launched a series of technology initiatives worth over $1.2 billion aimed at improving the digital skills of 100,000 Saudi youngsters by 2030, as the Kingdom aims to become among the world’s top 5 in artificial intelligence (AI).

The announcement was made at an event called Launch held on Wednesday hosted by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP), as well as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), and the Saudi Federation for Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA).

Abdullah Al Sawaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, unveiled the manufacture of the first Saudi-made smart chip to be used in military, civil and commercial applications.

Al Sawaha explained that these smart chips have a processing power that is more than 60,000 times that is used in the human journey to the moon, and in smart phones and what giant companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Sixo, Oracle and Alibaba use, which represent 60% of the power.

Faisal Al Khamisi, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, said that Saudi Arabia aims to have at least one programmer out of every 100 citizens by 2030.

Abdullah Al Ghamdi, chairman of the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, said that Saudi Arabia aims to be one of the world’s top 5 countries in AI, and this requires the creation of 25,000 specialists’ jobs in data science and AI before 2030.

During the event, several multinational corporations including Amazon, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Informa, and Microsoft, announced their partnership with the kingdom to create digital capability centres and innovation hubs for tech startups.

In addition, MCIT set up the National Technology Development Programme with a budget of SR2.5 billion, with the goal of making the kingdom the world’s leading technology country. The programme launched its early products, Financial Security, to strengthen trust between tech companies and financial entities, as well as the SME loan guarantee programme, Kafalah, which aims to provide up to 90 per cent insurance of the financing value and with a volume of SR15m, so that technology SMEs can have a financial fund to cover their expansion plans.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Chinese eWTP Arabia Capital fund with $400m capital, seeks to support technology startups in the kingdom, was also unveiled at the Launch event. This investment came along after Alibaba Cloud chose Riyadh as its regional center for management and training, with investments amounting to $500 million over five years in the region.

The event also saw the launch of the Tuwaiq 1000 Bootcamp, which ends in student employment and is supported by the MCIT’s future skills initiative. Projects in Saudi Arabia will be launched simultaneously in 13 regions across the country, with 40 training bootcamps focusing on four tracks: cybersecurity, programming, artificial intelligence, and the electronic games sector.

Also unveiled was the SATR platform for learning programming principles, which coincided with the launch of CoderHub, the first Arab portal specialising in programming challenges.

The event witnessed a partnership between Google and Tuwaiq Academy that is part of (SAFCSP), in upskilling programmes and the cooperation with OneMT, an electronic games company.

Launch also marked the start of registrations for the Apple Developer Academy, the first of its kind in MENA, which will, in its first phase, focus on women developers and programmers.

The Drones Platform too was launched which is specialised in serving drones’ users inside the kingdom.

LEAP and @HACK

MCIT, SAFCSP, and the General Entertainments Authority also launched two events – LEAP and @HACK – in collaboration with Informa.

LEAP will be held in Riyadh from February 1-3, 2022, and will feature over 500 international speakers, exhibit technologies from over 1,000 of the world’s tech companies and startups and is expected to attract at least 40,000 people. Some of the topics that will be addressed at LEAP include artificial intelligence, Industry 5.0, robotics, smart cities, IoT, among other fields.

Organised by Informa Tech, LEAP is set to be a strategic initiative that aims to transform the national economy and position the kingdom as a visionary tech hub.

Backed by the American hacking event Black Hat, @HACK will take place as part of Riyadh Season and will feature the most advanced ethical hacking training sessions to help the country defend against the threat of hostile cyberattacks.

It will also include the region’s largest hacking tournament. Over 250 cybersecurity vendors will be present at the event including Fortinet, Malwarebytes, STC, SPIRE, Honeywell, Qualys, SentinelOne, Synack, and RSA.

The event is being organised in support of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and SAFCSP’s aim to make one out of every 100 Saudi citizens a programmer. @Hack is the official Middle East facilitator and distributor for offensive security, and its security instructors will be among the 50 Black Hat authorised trainers running a training series in the run-up to the event, which will take place from November 23-27.

The series will also establish a hacking school in the Middle East, offering sophisticated lessons for all levels of hackers. NotSoSecure, Orange Cyberdefense, and We45 are among the other sponsors.

Michael Champion, regional EVP, Informa Markets said, “We launched LEAP and @HACK in Saudi because the kingdom is the current and future epicentre of tech activity in the region.”

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