KSA maintains a robust digital infrastructure, accelerating the digital transformation. This structure has enabled the Kingdom to face public and private sector disruptive crises, ensuring business continuity, educational operations, citizen requirements, and daily resident lives. The Kingdom has achieved a ranke that is among the top ten developed countries globally for its robust digital framework. The Kingdom improved the quality of digital services provided to beneficiaries by partnering with the private sector. This partnership is created to provide fiber-optic network coverage to more than 3.5 million homes across the Kingdom, increasing internet traffic during the pandemic by 30%, doubling the internet traffic through the Saudi Arabian Internet Exchange (SAIX), increasing the internet speed from 9 Mbps in 2017 to 109 Mbps in 2020 and completing the expansion of the internal coverage system at the Holy Mosque in Makkah.
The Kingdom was named the “Top Digital Riser” among the G20 nations due to the comprehensive government support for digital transformation in the Kingdom, as part of Vision 2030.
The Kingdom provided 100% of households with basic telecommunication services, covering over 576,000 homes in remote areas with broadband services.
Social media policies
Digital Transformation in Saudi Arabia recognizes that social media is being developed so fast, and with diverse modality and methodology. This change is a challenge to policy makers, yet it provides opportunities for citizens to build presence and develop e-participation. The different new techniques and tools being developed for social media pose a threat However, taking advantage of these digitally enabled possibilities demand a much quicker and bias actions from policy makers, i.e. they need to be agile!
The agility is not limited to new devices and application software, but also on using data and analytics to source for solutions to problem or opportunities, employing tests, evaluating the results, and fast iteration. The advantage of this agility is that it can run hundreds of campaigns and multiple ideas simultaneously every week.
Acquiring attributes of agile organizations will most likely enable the public sector to adapt to changing dynamics and offer value-added services to their citizens. Adjusting rapidly to citizens’ demands, providing solutions to their different concerns, and shaping public needs in the long run are all priorities for public entities.
It is widely accepted that social media is a dynamic medium. It is a fact technology is being changing in this field would require more attention to such development to make such technology not only being used but used in a more efficient way. Innovation Strategy prioritize digital technology as one of the top seven national sectors.
In Saudi Arabia, Digital Transformation is a top-four priority in the National Transformation Program (NTP). Social media is decisive agile technology tool and hence a factor in digital transformation. Other trends are observed clearly and strongly in the Digital Transformation in Saudi Arabia, as a non-government expert opinion shows such progress
E- & M-government policies
The digital government strategy and implementation are now included in the internet of things. M-government benefit the citizens and the government by minimizing cost, enhancing services, increasing efficiency and effectiveness, and saving operational and service delivery time. M-government archives the objective appropriate strategy that achieves the objective of providing seamless services at any time anywhere subject to the availability of internet.
The Saudi Arabia government has stipulated M-government as one the priority not only for all government agencies, but also to the community at large. This research aims to provide an overview of the extent and success M-government in Saudi Arabia. In particular our study focuses on factors which influence adoption of M-government service by citizens. As an example, Saudi Arabia Ministry of health has addressed m-Government applications and services in high importance. Other m-government services have been introduced.
Mobile technology being a highly agile, the actual software and the technology used in mobile communication and applications have a great impact on digital transformation in mobile services. The data being entrusted to SDAIA in the development of digital success story of Saudi Arabia. Essential policies anticipate the progress of such technology, and hence adopted the proper policies and road maps for such development.
Backend database systems, citizen support systems, and online government services are essential parts of the technology for mobile government. In contrast, a slow or inconvenient services delivery is rated badly by the users. Therefore, agility is necessary also to find out security and protective technology that may counter such impediments.
Government cloud applications
KSA Cloud First Policy of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has been launched in 2020. In general, the government has been fostering the use of cloud computing formally.
This policy for cloud computing leverages several elements including scale, virtualization, resilience, cost, efficiency, service orientation, agility, etc. These elements are combined into five key characteristics:
- On-demand self-service: Unilateral provisioning of computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, provisioned by the end-user, without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
- Broad network access: Availability of capabilities over the network with accessibility through standard mechanisms that promotes usage by the consumer through different platforms (e.g., phones, laptops, and PCs).
- Resource pooling: Pooled computing resources to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources assigned and re-assigned based on demand. There is a degree of location independence, the customer may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g. country, state, or datacenter) but not the exact location of the provided resources. Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, network bandwidth and virtual machines
- Rapid elasticity: Rapid and elastic provision of capabilities to quickly scale resources up and down – this is done in some cases automatically. To the consumer, capabilities available for provisioning are often (almost) unlimited and can be purchased in any quantity at any time
- Measured service: Automatic controlled and optimized resources are used by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction, appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service
This policy is a clearly focused and visible effort to provide an efficient way of applying cloud technology, both as operational and agile. The Internet of Things (IoT).
Emerging Technology Projects
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is set to become the global leader of the digital economy through the full deployment of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, Big Data, Robotics, Machine Learning, 5G across public and private sectors.
Saudi Arabia is among the first countries globally whose institutions started to experiment with the use of the blockchain and allowed international firms wishing to test new digital solutions in a 'live' environment to deploy them in the KSA in the future.
- SAMA Regulatory Sandbox: Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has designed a Regulatory Sandbox that welcomes local as well as international firms wishing to test new digital solutions in a 'live' environment with a view to deploy them in the KSA in the future. The objective is to understand and assess the impact of new technologies in the KSA's Financial Sector market and help transform the Saudi market into a smart financial center.
- Blockchain for the Financial Sector: The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) is among the first Saudi government authorities and central banks in the world that announced the deployment of blockchain technology for money transfer. In June 2020, SAMA piloted blockchain technology for money transfer to deposit part of the SR50 billion ($13.3 bn) of the liquidity that it had previously announced to inject into the banking sector. While still in a test phase, this pilot enabled SAMA to speed up its efforts in exploring and assessing the impacts of the emerging technologies on the financial sector.
- Fintech Saudi: Fintech Saudi was launched by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) in partnership with the Capital Market Authority in April 2018 to act as a catalyst for the development of the financial services technology (fintech) industry in Saudi Arabia. The objective is to transform Saudi Arabia into an innovative fintech hub with a thriving and responsible fintech ecosystem by supporting the development of the infrastructure required for the growth of the fintech industry, building capabilities and talent required by fintech companies and supporting fintech entrepreneurs at every stage of their development.
- Blockchain for cross-border trade: A key player on the Saudi trade and logistics landscape, Saudi Customs Authority is testing the use of blockchain to create a real solution for a fragmented peer-to-peer business ecosystem in solving complex problems such as platform challenges, business challenges, data interoperability, and solution construction.
The Saudi Customs Authority, in cooperation with the IT partner Tabadul, oversaw the integration of FASAH with TradeLens in December 2018, a blockchain-enabled global shipping solution jointly developed by Maersk and IBM. FASAH is Saudi Arabia's national platform which connects all Government and private entities involved in cross-border trade. The pilot aimed to link FASAH with TradeLens for selected services to ensure immutability, traceability, reduced reconciliation, auditability, and compliance. Through its adoption of blockchain, Saudi Customs aims to be the first in the region that is able to provide remarkable customs services that will see the Kingdom become a global logistics hub. The first shipment that was launched using blockchain technology was from the King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam to the port of Rotterdam on May 13, 2019.
Several Government authorities in the Kingdom have established regulatory sandboxes in using digital technologies to allows startups and other innovators to conduct live experiments in a controlled environment under a regulator's supervision. These initiatives include:
- Saudi Central Bank has designed a Regulatory Sandbox that welcomes local and international firms wishing to test new digital solutions in a 'live' environment with a view to deploying them in the Kingdom in the future. The objective is to understand and assess the impact of new technologies in the KSA's Financial Sector market and help transform the Saudi market into a smart financial center.
- The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) launched a Regulatory Sandbox for delivery applications. The initiative comes as part of the authority's mandate to regulate and supervise the postal sector, including the licensing and regulation of delivery apps operating in Saudi Arabia. This regulatory sandbox has been specifically crafted to support, enable, and sustain the growth of the Kingdom's delivery app ecosystem, for the benefit of all sector stakeholders, including consumers, producers, and delivery drivers. Specifically, it aims to reduce time to market for apps and potentially lower the cost of delivery services. It will also give app designers the ability to test innovative products and services in a controlled environment. By doing so, and providing better access to financing, CITC will help to develop an ecosystem conducive to innovation.
- In November 2021, the Digital Government Authority (DGA) launched the regulatory sandbox initiative for government technical companies to find organizational solutions in the field of digital platforms and services. The initiative aims for governing and enhancing digital government services in Saudi Arabia and preparing the necessary regulations to improve the business environment, in addition to addressing the challenges facing companies and institutions in digital government services and improving the beneficiary’s experience.
Several Government agencies have developed initiatives and platforms to explore the possibilities and limits of the new technologies and how these technologies will impact the future of the digital government, economy, and society in general. Some of these initiatives include:
- Estishraf is the analytical arm of the National Information Center (NIC). It enables decision-makers and Government officials to unlock the powers of data science to drive factual decision-making. Estishraf employs an elite multidisciplinary team to apply advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence technology to the big centralized data in the Data Bank to produce valuable business insights and to tell domain stories.
- International Performance Hub (IPH) is an interactive platform designed to track over 500 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) under 12 main pillars, ranging from education and energy to social and industry. Created by National Center for Performance Measurement 'Adaa,' the platform aggregates and visualizes data from many respected international bodies, including the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). IPH is unique in that it is:
- Convenient: Collecting a broad spectrum of data into one comprehensive and intuitive platform;
- Credible: Ensuring data can be relied upon by governments around the world, IPH sources only from highly-respected organizations with recognized data sets;
- Insightful: Although IPH is still under development, future offerings include integrated analysis across data sources, and predictive and prioritization capabilities from a government practitioner lens.
Drivers for Smart Government Transformation
The availability of certain conditions, recourses and achievements can be not on ly supportive of a successful smart government transformation, but mandatory and critical in nature. While road mapping and implementing, and most of all maintaining growth in digital transformation, special attention should be given to the factors and considerations that drive smart government transformation. This attention is considered as a policy of operation rather than methods of implementing projects. Under this policy critical enablers were identified and furthered. The government views that data is not only important but the core of any smart government development, and consequently data concerns are significant drivers to the transformation process:
- The issue of security is omnipresent in digital transformation. There is an ongoing mandate to protect and secure government interests while building trust.
- Privacy is the twin driver to security. It is to ensure personal data is safe, secure, and used ethically across digital landscape.
- When data is captured and analyzed, it can be used safely to update service design and relevant policy.
- Proper governance is the main driver to provide accountability and ensure consistent and timely implementation of the Strategy
Agile environments are environments in which work ability is characterized by moving with quick, easy skillfully. As technology is agile, i.e., moving fast. The digital transformation has a basic requirement for success which is indispensable: being agile. DGA has integrated the philosophy of agility in from of ongoing assessment, continuous improving of methodology and keeping a close observance of developing a new technology. Continuous human resource assessment and providing plans for new mindset is foreseen, including possibilities of adapting new tools needed to achieve digital transformation in an ongoing digital agile environment. Strategic concerns are well embedded in the planning of DGA strategies, that include fundamental concepts of agile development:
- Focusing on individuals and interactions rather than processes and tools
- Citizen collaboration rather than contract negotiations
- Responding to change rather than following a plan
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