The Saudi Arabian Vision of 2030 is a major challenge and significant development for the future of the Kingdom. Under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Vision 2030 was launched, a roadmap drawn up by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, to employ national resources and determination to realize the goals of this Vision. The Kingdom did not hesitate to embark on a major vision for development, in tandem with the United Nations move towards sustainable development in 2015.
In a well concerted plan to realize such ambitious goals and objectives as specified by the Vision, Saudi Arabia has the strategic importance not only geographical but also economical and religious, blended with science and innovation. The determination and persistence of the Kingdom, and the Royal Leadership, is driving the potential and capability of harnessing Saudi potential to achieve Vision 2030 ambitions.
The Vision was launched in 2016, and in a remarkable sequence of achievements in development, great results are making it a reality. Unprecedented reforms were realized in the public sector’s operating model, including the economy and society. Many challenges are being faced, which at the same time are enriching development work with professional experiences. Diversification of the Kingdom’s investment power created a more diverse and sustainable economy.
An already established program at a very high-level called the National Transformation Program is in charge of developing the necessary infrastructure, and create an environment to enable the public, private and non-profit sectors to realize Vision 2030. This will be accomplished by achieving governance operational excellence, supporting digital transformation, enabling the private sector, developing economic partnerships, and promoting social development, in addition to ensuring the sustainability of vital resources.
The Digital Government Authority (DGA) has launched the "Inclusive Government Program" to provide integrated digital services to the government sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The objective is to encourage the use of infrastructure and shared applications, in addition to raising the level of data exchange among the government entities and achieving integration between them in order to enable and accelerate sustainable digital government transformation. It seeks to provide a better digital experience through unified platforms and applications, in addition to developing and operating comprehensive government platforms through a set of technologies that enable the authorities to develop, exchange and link services without the need to redesign, test and run the same platforms: an effective platform for digital inclusion.
Right of participation and inclusion
All citizens and residents in the Kingdom have equal rights to get easy and affordable access to the Internet, digital government services and actively participate in the consultations and decision-making processes. The Kingdom has implemented several projects and initiatives related to connectivity, availability, affordability, thus enhancing accessibility of government portals and services, and increasing digital literacy and skills. More importantly, the Kingdom adopted special initiatives and implemented measures to ensure meaningful connectivity and access to eGovernment services, building digital literacy and skills for vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, elderly, people with disabilities, poor, migrants, etc.
Digital Inclusion Strategies
In the third pillar of the Saudi Vision 2030 objectives, "An ambitious nation," direct reference is made to address make to the benefits and needs of the digital transformation and the need for digital inclusion of all Saudi citizens and residents, with a special focus on the vulnerable groups. Moreover, as a major instrument towards vision realization program of the Vision 2030, the National Transformation Program identifies several objectives directly focused on digital inclusion of all citizens, including vulnerable groups. These objectives include:
- Objective 13: Foster values of equity & transparency.
- Objective 14: Improve the quality of services provided to citizens.
- Objective 23: Develop the e-Government.
- Objective 34: Strengthen the Communication Channels with Citizens and Business Community.
The Smart Government Strategy addresses Digital Inclusion in Strategic objective 1.3. which empower citizens to enhance Smart Government adoption. The Strategy calls for increasing citizens awareness, access, and use of Smart Government services through:
- Coordinating marketing of digital services across government to ensure there is a standard message to citizens around the available services.
- Updating and further rolling out Kiosks and service centers to service areas of poor internet connectivity, support citizens that do not have internet devices or are not digitally literate; and,
- Training citizens and businesses on the use and benefits of Smart Government services reduces the digital divide and ensures that all citizens have the skills required to use the services being provided.
The strategic objectives define two main initiatives to support digital inclusion and reduce inequalities:
1.3.1 Digital Service Awareness: This initiative is about launching a major public awareness campaign to increase the adoption of government services.
1.3.2 Digital Service Reach: Leveraging existing service centers and kiosks, and utilizing the reach of online training platforms, this initiative aims to develop access to Smart Government services through both actual coverages in all areas of the country and knowledge on how to use these services while ensuring that a distinct useful experience is delivered independently of the channel used.
This is incorporated into the digital-by-default initiatives with alternative access points and specific life events and people, e.g. youth, elderly, residents, migrants, low-income households, rural areas, women, etc. It is part of the design standard to target the needs of end-users. That direct engagement initiatives are pursued (Watani, eConsultations Portal, Tawasel, Private Sector Feedback Platform, etc.) and that indirectly Service Level Agreements (SLAs), user rating and feedback on portals, pages and services is monitored and combined with input via call and service centers for continuous service improvement.
Building digital literacy and digital skills for women and other vulnerable groups
Empowering women and other vulnerable groups are the is a central pillar in the Saudi Vision 2030. In line with the UN SDGs, Vision 2030, and the National Transformation Program, the KSA government is implementing specific initiatives and measures for building digital literacy skills for women and other vulnerable groups.
Some of the current programs and initiatives include:
All these programs encourage and ensure equal participation of women and other vulnerable groups. The government authorities or partner organizations implementing the programs are legally obliged to provide physical access and web accessibility for people with disabilities. All programs are free of charge and are available for children and people from vulnerable groups (migrants, low-income families, etc.).
Some of these programs and initiatives were recognized with international awards and prizes:
- Women Empowerment Program in Technology won an award from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2018
- Digital Giving Initiative’ Attaa Digital’ won the 2020 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize awarded by the ITU, in the category of cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content.
- Schools Connectivity Project won the award in category C2: Information and communications infrastructure at the WSIS Forum in 2013.
Women are encouraged to become proactive and e-participants.
Digital Inclusion of Saudi Rural Areas
Saudi Arabia also works to ensure digital inclusion of rural areas. The Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) are implementing the Digital Inclusion of Saudi Rural Areas project and the Wireless Broadband (WBB) initiative to serve rural and remote areas in the Kingdom bridging the digital divide and enabling inclusion, contributing to future prosperity to those communities. Started in 2018, the WBB offers ICT services with an average internet access speed of 10 Mbps per rural household, regardless of its location within the targeted areas. The objective is to ensure broadband access to about 3000 remote localities, covering more than 450k households and 2.57 million inhabitants.
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 Information and communication infrastructure.
E-participation, and engagement strategies
The importance of interactive communication and constructive dialogue between the government and citizens, the business sector, and all other parties, as an essential precondition to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030. The Kingdom views digital engagement and participation with great importance as communication channels that the citizens use to express their ideas, opinions, and suggestions on specific topics relevant to our society. Effective e-participation would provide the government with innovative ideas and constructive suggestions which may enhance the quality of the legislation, policies, strategies, initiatives, and services.
With growing need for comprehensive adoption of e-Participation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sought to utilize the vast telecommunications network and Internet service present in the country to enable you to participate in formulating solutions to issues of public interest. E-Participation is the cornerstone of providing government services centered around citizens’ needs. This comes in addition to utilizing information technology and telecommunications to allow even more community involvement in governance, including the design and implementation of government services, constructing policies, and informing decision-making.
Such e-participation opportunities are made available to citizens for shareinge views and opinions in a secure and reliable way. The government public consultation platforms are designed to protect and preserve personal data with the highest standards for information security and privacy.
To enable citizens engagement and impose mandatory consultations on new legislative proposals, the Council of Ministers adopted decision No. (476) dated 15/7/1441 H mandating the National Competitiveness Center to establish Rules and Regulations Support Unit in the center to perform the following tasks:
- Establishing and supervising the unified electronic platform to solicit the opinions of the public and government agencies.
- Preparing survey forms, evaluating the effects, and circulating them to government agencies.
- Provide notes and visuals about the results of the survey to the project owner, if it requests it.
- Awareness and dissemination of the culture of the survey of the importance of participating in evaluating the regulatory effects on the projects of laws and regulations and the like.
eParticipation measures for women and other vulnerable groups
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia makes all necessary efforts to ensure digital inclusion in context of digital participation for all its citizens and residents, including vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, women, youth, elderly, migrants, etc. To achieve this goal, the Government ensured meaningful connectivity and specific measures for digital literacy and skills for all individuals, including women and other vulnerable groups, to enable active citizen's digital participation. Specific measures include:
- Connectivity: Building world-class ICT infrastructure that ensured that all citizens and residents could have affordable access to Internet. By 2019, 96% of the Kingdom's individuals are using the Internet (including vulnerable groups). Also, 95% of the women are using Internet (Source: International Telecommunication Union (ITU)).
- Accessibility: All government agencies and service providers in the Kingdom are legally obliged to implement the WCAG 2.0 AAA accessibility standards. Compliance with the WCAG standard ensures that online content on the government portals is easy to use and accessible for all users, particularly for People with Disabilities.
- Affordability: Ensuring free of charge use of Internet (Public Wi-Fi Hotspots, Free of charge access on mobile applications of government services, Free of charge access to government platforms for Distance learning, and Schools Connectivity project).
- Digital literacy and skills: Implemented plans, strategies, and initiatives that address digital literacy for students, starting from the primary school level and training for teachers. Some of the initiatives include King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Project for General Education Development, Digital Skill Framework (DSF), Future Skills Program, Women Empowerment Program in Technology, Digital Giving Initiative' Attaa Digital', Cyberbullying e-Learning courses for children and parents, Misk Foundation, ThinkTech, etc.
- Government portals for eConsultations, polls, feedback and suggestions: All citizens and residents, including women and other vulnerable groups, can actively participate in the open consultations, polls, or share their innovative ideas with the government using the existing government portals. They can share their views and opinions on general topics or issues targeting vulnerable groups (e.g. social protection, education, health, employment). Some of these platforms include:
- Public consultations on strategies, initiatives, and services (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development, Social Development Bank, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Commerce, Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, and Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO)).
Cyber security, data and privacy protection strategy
The Unified National Platform (GOV.SA) is aware of the importance of your privacy and personal data; therefore, we commit to keeping all critical information and data of all Users safe, secure, and confidential.
The Personal Data Protection Law and its executive regulations set the legal basis for the protection of rights of individuals regarding the processing of personal data by all entities in the Kingdom, as well as entities outside which process personal data related to individuals residing in the Kingdom using any means, including online personal data processing.
The fundamental principles of our data protection policy include:
- Accountability by the head of the entity (or his designee) for the Data Controller's privacy policies and procedures.
- Transparency through Privacy Notice indicating the purposes for which personal data is collected.
- Choice and Consent obtained through implicit or explicit approval regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal data before collection.
- Limiting Data Collection to minimum data that enables fulfilment of purposes.
- Use, Retention and Destruction strictly for the purpose, retained as long as necessary to achieve intended purposes or as required by laws and regulations and destroyed safely, preventing leakage, loss, theft, misuse or unauthorized access.
- Access to data by which any Data Subject can review, update and correct their personal data.
- Data Disclosure Limitation approved by Data Subject restricts third parties to the purposes provided in Privacy Notice.
- Data security by protecting personal data from leakage, damage, loss, theft, misuse, modification, or unauthorized access; according to the controls issued by the National Cybersecurity Authority and other relevant authorities.
- Data quality after verification of its accuracy, completeness, and timeliness.
- Monitoring and Compliance with Data Controller's privacy policies and procedures, and any privacy-related inquiries, complaints, and disputes.
The National Data Management and Personal Data Protection Standards cover 15 Data Management and Personal Data Protection domains. The Standards apply to all government data regardless of form or type, including paper records, emails, data stored in electronic form, voice recordings, videos, maps, photos, scripts, handwritten documents, or other recorded data. The application of the provisions of the Personal Data Protection Law and its executive regulations is without prejudice to the competencies and tasks of the National Cyber Security Authority as a competent security authority for cybersecurity and its affairs in the Kingdom.
The Kingdom has adopted an all-inclusive integrated set of Personal Data Protection Regulations, in order to make sure that the citizen is secure and well protected in the privacy of his data. These include Personal data protection law. National Data Management and Personal Data Protection Standards. National Data Governance Interim Regulations. Anti-Cyber Crime Law. Electronic Transactions Law., Individuals’ (Data Subject) Rights and the Data Controller Obligations. Children and Incompetents’ Privacy Protection Policy. General rules for the transfer of personal data outside the Kingdom.
Other relevant legislation and regulations include Cybersecurity controls and guidelines, Freedom of Information, Open Data, Digital Transformation and National Data Governance Policies.
Government data represents a national asset that can enhance performance and productivity which facilitates public services delivery. This can be achieved by instituting effective data management practices, establishing the highest levels of data accountability and transparency, and leveraging data to extract insights and support strategic decision making. Nations around the world are harnessing the value of data as a vital economic resource for unlocking innovation, driving economic growth and transformation, and improving national competitiveness.
Government entities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia collect and normous vast amounts of data that can contribute to national economic prosperity and leadership among global data-driven economies.
Major emphasis is placed on data governance. SDAIA entrusted its National Data Management office to be the official owner of this responsibility. Interim regulations have been adopted initially in 2020.
National strategy for Data and AI
A major step forward was the adoption by SDAIA of a widely anticipated National Strategy for Data and AI (NSDAI). This Strategy reiterates Saudi’s commitment to leverage responsible AI in achieving its national digital transformation objectives, solidify its role as a data and AI hub, and boost the ICT sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
NSDAI strategy, well praised by experts, referred to as ASPIRE, includes 6 main pillars:
- Ambition – to be amongst the top 15 countries in the development and application of AI by 2030
- Skills – to train and host more than 20,000 data and AI specialists and experts by 2030.
- Partnerships – with leading AI nations, international organizations, and private sector institutions.
- Investments – of over USD 20 billion in Data and AI
- Regulation – to foster a business-friendly regulatory environment, based on international best practice.
- Ecosystem – of more than 300 active data and AI start-ups hosted in the Kingdom by 2030, and world class regulatory sandboxes for the development and deployment of AI-powered technology.
More scientific details can be found here...
The Strategy aimed specifically to launch AI and data-related initiatives & events organized or led by Saudi Arabia.
Realizing the serious need for expertise, the strategy also focuses on implementing a national multi-tier data & AI workforce certification program, thus establishing a data & AI focus in the educational system. Other objectives are:
- To activate regulatory frameworks for data & AI activities & incentive schemes to attract data & AI companies & talents.
- To build targeted funds & investor support programs to attract & guide domestic/foreign investments in data & AI.
- To elevate data and AI institutions innovation, quality & commercialization outcomes & establish test-beds in new cities.
- To build an integral infrastructure & establish data & AI platforms to accelerate the adoption of data & AI applications.
Essential principles of actions that are planned and implemented are of international tandard, and cover the following:
- Inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being
- Human-centered values and fairness
- Investing in AI R&D
- Fostering a digital ecosystem for AI
- Building human capacity and preparing for labor market transition
National Cybersecurity Strategy
The rapid growth of technology usage has introduced new Cybersecurity vulnerabilities and cyber threats, which require effective and efficient cybersecurity protection so that networks, information technology, operational technology systems, and related hardware and software components are secured. The need becomes very pressing and urgent for protecting services and data from penetration, disruption, modification, entry, use, or exploitation.
The National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) prepared the Kingdom’s first National Cybersecurity Strategy to guide implementation of key initiatives to achieve an appropriate balance between enhancing cybersecurity, raising confidence, and contributing to the Kingdom’s growth and prosperity.
The roles and responsibilities of organizations in the national cyber ecosystem include the NCA, military and security organizations, civil government organizations, private sector organizations, the national community, and the international community.
Four national cybersecurity frameworks were built to augment the Strategy and provide an essential foundation needed to achieve the national strategic goals. These are as follows:
- National Cybersecurity Incident Response Framework
- National Cybersecurity Capability Building Framework
- National Cybersecurity Risk Management Framework
- National Cybersecurity Information Sharing Framework
The Strategy is implemented over a five-year period and is sequenced along three tracks consisting of 14 initiatives and 70 discrete projects. The three implementation tracks are as follows:
- Track #1: High-Return Projects
Launching urgent specific projects that have a tangible impact in raising the cybersecurity maturity of the Kingdom.
- Track #2: Cybersecurity Catalyst Program
Providing basic cybersecurity services to national organizations that raise the overall level of cybersecurity in the Kingdom.
- Track #3: National Initiatives
Implementing a set of five-year national initiatives and projects with long-term strategic impacts.
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