Governmental Integration Channel
Infrastructure for technology and networking is the ultimate base for any progress towards electronic governance and digital transformation. The transformation continuously demands more efficient and reliable communication channels, secure and the proper platform needed to manage and run it, in addition to platforms of data management, be they data centers, big data or any other. Data clouds are essential as well, within the infrastructure that form the foundation of government, private sector and consumer use of digital services, the Kingdom is also increasingly successful in attracting the ‘hyperscale’ global cloud service providers.
A major pillar for this infrastructure is the Government Service Bus (GSB). It is essential in securing well-integrated national infrastructure projects which are implemented and managed initially by Yesser Program and now by SDAIA. It aims to activate a secure data exchange between the government agencies that are authorized to use the data in providing their services effectively and accurately.
The Kingdom now offers over 6,000 e-government services and records 3 billion digital transactions a year. All of this progress is creating huge demand for data centers as the critical infrastructure of the digital economy. The digital transformation has blended efforts across the government for a national backbone and infrastructure that provides this growth in digital transformation.
Partnership models will be critical to ensure that the modern, high-tech, and highly sustainable facilities needed can be built fast enough. Data center design, build and operation is a complex business requiring specialist expertise. Even finding suitable sites, close to where services are needed, but secure, and with resilient connections to both power and the fiber-optic cables that link them to the global internet, requires detailed planning and experience.
To deliver the clouds that form the foundation of government, private sector and consumer use of digital services, the Kingdom is also increasingly successful in attracting the ‘hyperscale’ global cloud service providers. Alibaba Cloud partnered with STC group, eWTP Arabia Capital, Saudi Company for Artificial intelligence (SCAI) and the Saudi Information Technology Company (SITE). This partnership is a reliable and strong infrastructure support for national digital transformation.
Digital-by-Default and Once-Only Principle
One of the most crucial principles in the digital transformation that have been taken into account in the NDGS and the Digital Government Regulatory Framework is the digital-by-default principle. The Saudi government taking the lead in trying to develop a digital model and trend for citizen experiences, as that helps to make the service delivery to them much easier and faster. This is a type example of “digital-by-default” approach. It endeavors to set digital platforms as the primary communication channel with citizens by 2024.
An innovative feature of the Kingdom’s e-government strategy is the “once-only” policy, whereby data is not collected several times by separate agencies, reducing redundancies and enabling a more integrated experience accessing various public services. This strategy is efficient for digital economy as well, and being adopted.
Through these efforts, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) awarded the Kingdom the Government Leadership Award in 2020, recognizing the country’s efforts in developing policies and regulations that support the digital economy, stimulate investment and creativity, and contribute to sustainable development goals.
The ITU also took note of the Kingdom’s application of international best practices in transparency, the inclusion of public views and organizational independence in the ICT sector.
Another major priority for the Kingdom is upgrading national talent to meet future job requirements. Accordingly, significant investments have been made to promote knowledge and increase the capacity of the national talent pool in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through supportive programs and policies.
But classroom teaching is not enough to meet the digital economy’s demands. Here again, local universities can tap into the expertise and capabilities of technology companies to prepare students for the future.
Connectivity is improving very steadily in Saudi Arabia. Broadband infrastructure is essential for digital inclusion in the digital age. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been ranked among the top ten developed countries globally for its robust digital framework. Recognized as the main precondition for digital inclusion, the Kingdom has ensured that by 2019 achieved (Source: International Telecommunication Union (ITU)):
Network coverage is succeeding in facilitating accessibility. Some facts show this reality:
- 100% of the population is covered by a mobile-cellular network.
- 99% of the population is covered by at least a 3G mobile network.
- 94% of the population is covered by at least a 4G mobile network.
- 96% of the population is using the Internet.
- 95% of the women are using Internet.
- 97% of the men is using Internet.
As for Mobile phone ownership, access at home and Mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions, statistics show supporting facts:
- 97% of individuals (citizens and residents) owning a mobile phone.
- 95% of women (citizens and residents) owning a mobile phone.
- 98% of men (citizens and residents) owning a mobile phone.
- 99% of households with Internet access at home.
- 117% active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
- 20% fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
The growth of 5G mobile services in the country plays a crucial part in the KSA's plan to modernize and digitize its economy as part of Vision 2030. In terms of internet speeds, Saudi Arabia retained its place as the 7th fastest country globally for mobile internet speeds, averaging 109.48 Mbps in Q4 2020, and 4th in the world for 5G internet speeds with an average of 264.7 Mbps. The world's fastest 5G peak download speed of 862.6 Mbps was recorded by Saudi 5G users, surpassing South Korea in second place by 11%. In 2020, 5,358 new 5G towers were deployed across the country, bringing the total to 12,302 5G towers by the end of 2020. This number is set to grow as the allocation of spectrum for commercial uses continues to increase, as does the demand for faster internet services. For more information, please visit the CITC website.
The Kingdom ensured that all government portals, mobile applications and services are available and accessible by all citizens, residents and visitors 24/7/365. All government portals in the Kingdom apply the highest technical standards and aim to use state-of-the-art technologies to enhance and facilitate access to their contents. Moreover, all government portals are compatible with WCAG 2.0 AAA standards, easy to use and accessible. Read more about the Service channels, Government Mobile Applications, Free Internet Services (Free Wi-Fi), and Kiosks.
The Kingdom realizes the importance of the Internet as the main precondition for the use of eServices and Digital Inclusion. To ensure that every citizen can access the Internet, the Government works with the telecom operators to ensure that every individual can have a meaningful connection and access to the Internet. To ensure that no one is left behind and support all individuals in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kingdom launched several initiatives.
- Free of charge access on mobile applications of government services
As a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Kingdom's government and the Internet service providers in Saudi Arabia allowed for free of charge access on mobile applications of the government agencies providing government services, including the portal of the Ministry of Health. The aim is to enable all citizens, residents and visitors (particularly those using Roaming) to be able to use all Government mobile applications. This will help users receive daily information, use government services, and actively participate in various eConsultation initiatives. Read more about Government mobile applications offered free of charge in Saudi Arabia.
- Free of charge access to government platforms for Distance learning
To enable students and teachers to continue the educational process in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and to transform the educational process into distance education, the Kingdom represented by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has directed Internet service providers in Saudi Arabia to provide free access to government educational platforms, which are the unified education system and the national education portal (IEN). Read more about the Madrasati platform.
- Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has deployed free Wi-Fi hotspots in a number of public places, reaching 60,000 points throughout the Kingdom. It worked with Internet service providers to provide coverage maps on the company's website or through its application. To access the coverage maps, please visit the operator's webpages: STC, Mobily, and Zain.
Digital Literacy and Skills
Building digital literacy and digital skills are high on the Kingdom's government agenda. Previous programs and initiatives allowed the Kingdom to be among the top ten countries in the world on Digital Skills in the Global Competitiveness Report published at the World Economic Forum 2020. According to the International Telecommunication Union data for 2019:
- 68% of the individuals in the Kingdom have at least basic ICT skills.
- 56 % of the individuals in the Kingdom have standard ICT skills.
- 14% of the individuals in the Kingdom have advanced ICT skills.
The Kingdom expects these numbers to be increased and have at least 90% of the individuals with basic ICT skills by 2024.Saudi Arabia also won the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) award for its Women Empowerment Program in Technology. Some of the current programs and initiatives include:
A country-wide project for general education known as the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Project for General Education Development, or the Tatweer Project 2007-2023. The aim is to achieve higher integration of ICT in the Saudi curriculum. This project is supported by continuously issued educational strategies, Vision 2030, and the National Transformation Program. These promote ICT skills from the primary school level, special schools for people and children with disabilities, and training for teachers.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) developed a Digital Skill Framework (DSF) to define ICT skills built based on SFIA Skills Framework for the Information Age and define ICT skills worldwide. The framework identified 102 skills and seven different possible levels of responsibility.
- Future Skills Program
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) launched the Future Skills Program to provide intensive training in digital areas, including communications and technology projects management, information security, data science, web development, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and information technology engineering. The objective is to qualify national talents to advance the process of digital transformation and increase employment opportunities in the communications and information technology sector in multiple fields, including modern, traditional, supportive technologies and future jobs. The program ensures equal participation of women and other vulnerable groups.
- Women Empowerment Program in Technology
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) launched the Women Empowerment Program in Technology to improve women's digital skills to support the digital transformation process and create opportunities for women in the ICT sector. The MCIT offers qualitative qualification programs for women to develop leadership skills and create leadership opportunities for them. The empowerment of women is considered one of the pillars of the ICT sector strategy. Saudi Arabia aims to build a digital system that embraces, develops, and attracts women's minds and skills.
Award: The Women Empowerment Program in Technology won an award from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2020.
- Digital Giving Initiative
The Digital Giving Initiative' Attaa Digital' was established under the auspice of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) in order to spread digital awareness and digital literacy in the Kingdom and Arab societies around the world by creating a community of trainers and volunteers to build the digital knowledge and disseminate with various segments of society through training events and programs. The Initiative delivered over 1000 training courses for up to 2.2 million beneficiaries, the volunteers outnumbered 13.000, and the total beneficiaries reached about 12 million. Its advanced media and technical tools, supported and managed by MCIT in cooperation with some relevant authorities, have contributed to delivering the initiative's message to the largest range of beneficiaries, answering technical inquiries, and digitally stimulating and developing digital giving in the non-profit sector. Read more about the various training, e-learning modules, and events available for all individuals, including vulnerable groups under this Initiative.
Award: The Digital Giving Initiative won the 2020 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize, awarded by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in the category of cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content.
- Cyberbullying e-Learning courses for children and parents
The Digital Giving Initiative' Attaa Digital’ and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) developed a unique initiative Cyberbullying e-Learning courses for children and parents to raise awareness of the threats and risks that the children may face in the digital world. The platform contains e-Learning courses for children and their parents on staying protected and protecting their children in the online world.
- Misk Foundation
Misk Foundation, established by HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2011, is a non-profit organization devoted to cultivating and encourage learning and leadership in youth for a better future in Saudi Arabia. To this end, Misk Foundation focuses on the country's youth and provides various means to foster, empower, and establish a healthy environment for young creative talents to grow and see the light. Misk Foundation invests in empowering the youth of Saudi Arabia in three main pillars: education and entrepreneurship, culture and creative arts, and science and technology as a supporting field. Read more about the Misk Foundation Program Tracks, Community Programs, Misk Skills, and Entrepreneurship Programs.
- Think Tech Initiative
Think Tech is an umbrella initiative launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to use technological developments for achieving the Saudi Vision 2030 and ensure sustainable development. The objective is to invest in the youth and encourage their creativeness, ideas, innovation for developing new innovative solutions and services. Several initiatives aimed to increase digital skills are developed under the ThinkTeck, such as the: Caravans of the Future, Virtual Lab, and World Robot Olympiad (WRO).
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