Saudi minister says apps failing to comply with regulatory measures will remain blocked
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Al-Swaha said that communication services would remain blocked for some mobile applications that do not comply with Saudi Arabia’s regulatory and security measures.
“The sovereignty and security of the homeland is a red line and the companies that do not adhere to the specified procedures will not be allowed to function in the country,” he said.
The minister made the remarks while attending the program titled “Al-Liwan” on Rotana Khalijia television channel.
Selling customer data to commercial entities by the telecom companies is a global challenge, especially since the average user shares his data with social media platforms and sometimes governments may not know anything about this, Al-Swaha said.
He pointed out that the talk about selling customer data was already monitored in the past by some companies, but the matter now was completely different.
The power of cloud computing is measured in the number of megawatts, where the baseline was less than 20 megawatts and is now 90 megawatts. The ministry aims to triple this number by the year 2025, he said.
How he became minister
While attending the program, Al-Swaha also talked about the scenario behind his appointment as minister in 2017. The minister explained that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman summoned him in late 2016 and asked him to prepare a plan for the Kingdom’s digital transformation. “The Crown Prince specifically told me about the future of telehealth, distance education and smart cities,” he said while emphasizing that this was an indication of the far-sightedness of the Crown Prince.
Al-Swaha said that he worked on preparing this plan for a period of 100 days, and then he was summoned to the Royal Court, where the Crown Prince told him that the pillars of the telecommunications sector in the Kingdom were weak, especially at the level of frequency spectrum and digital infrastructure, in addition to users’ complaints about poor quality of telecommunications and internet services.
The minister pointed out that the Crown Prince asked him to work on remedying the shortcomings in these pillars and formulating new axes to realize the Kingdom’s ambitions in this vital sector. “The Crown Prince then informed me that I was a candidate for a high position with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, and this was followed in April 2017 by his appointment as the minister of communications and IT.”
Al-Swaha revealed that the Crown Prince summoned him a month after taking office due to the lack of improvement in handling consumer complaints about the internet services. “I told him that there was a problem in the frequency spectrum, and then the Crown Prince responded to this complaint quickly and within a short period of time a decision was issued to free up the frequency spectrum.”
Al-Swaha also complained about a planned decision of the Council of Ministers to prevent the construction of communication towers on the streets and residential neighborhoods. As a result, the Crown Prince immediately summoned the Chief of the Royal Court and asked him to amend the decision. Indeed, it was amended in a way that harmonizes the urban landscape with the digital transformation.
The minister added that he presented to the Crown Prince a project to deliver optical fiber connections to 3.5 million homes within three years at a cost of SR6 billion to improve the quality of the digital infrastructure in the Kingdom.