On this page, you will find information about the Kingdom's role in the ecosystem of the digital transformation, including its efforts to improve the quality of electronic services and data-based products that serve society and to enable national human capabilities to contribute to this transformation with innovation and creativity in a way that supports the Saudi government's digital transformation strategy and effectively reaches its objectives.
KSA maintains a robust digital infrastructure, accelerating 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 range 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 was 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.
E-Government & M-Government policies
The digital government strategy and implementation are now included in the Internet of Things (IoT). M-Government benefits 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 anytime, anywhere, subject to the availability of the internet. The Saudi Arabia government has stipulated m-Government as one the priority not only for all government agencies but also for the community at large. This research aims to provide an overview of the extent and success of m-Government in Saudi Arabia. In particular, our study focuses on factors, which influence the adoption of m-Government services by citizens. As an example, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health has addressed m-Government applications and services in high importance. Other m-Government services have been introduced. Mobile technology is 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 the Saudi Data & AI Authority (SDAIA) in the development of the digital success story of Saudi Arabia. Essential policies anticipate the progress of such technology and hence adopt 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, slow or inconvenient service 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 Integration Channel
Infrastructure for technology and networking is the ultimate base for any progress toward 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 forms the foundation of government, private sector and consumer use of digital services, the Kingdom is also increasingly successful in attracting the ‘hyper-scale’ global cloud service providers.
A major pillar of 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 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 a huge demand for data centers as the critical infrastructure of the digital economy. 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 ‘hyper-scale’ global cloud service providers. Alibaba Cloud partnered with STC group, eWTP Arabia Capital, the 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.
Government Cloud Applications
KSA Cloud First Policy of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was 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 data center) 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.
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. Blockchain 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.
- 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 announce 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 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 in 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, audibility, 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.
- Crypto Escrow Infrastructure: A protocol that acts as an arbitrator for transactions between all types of ledgers, such as distributed, traditional, and centralized. It allows one entity to transact value with another without relying on a third party to stand between them while ensuring that each party honors the agreement. It is an infrastructure that acts as an arbitrator for transactions between all types of ledgers, distributed and traditional centralized alternatives. It provides a top-layer cryptographic escrow system that allows funds to move between ledgers with the help of intermediaries, also called "connectors". Connectors would facilitate transfers between ledgers, performing the same function that companies today might achieve with market makers when they exchange currencies for business purposes. This allows one entity to confidently transact value directly with another without relying on a third party to stand between them while ensuring that each party honors the agreement.
Several Government authorities in the Kingdom have established regulatory sandboxes in using digital technologies to allow startups and other innovators to conduct live experiments in a controlled environment under a regulator's supervision. These initiatives include:
- Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) 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 centre.
- The Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) 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 the 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 to govern and enhance digital government services in Saudi Arabia and prepare 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, Credible, and Insightful.
- GovTech radar! In order to empower government resources to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and innovative solutions to shape the future of governance, the GovTech radar provides a glimpse into insights and research services that will be made available for government entities to help them conduct future scoping exercises and identify technologies for potential use cases and future solutions. The present visualization tool contains 106 technologies assessed according to NASA’s Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to evaluate their technological development level. From 1 (the lowest level of technology maturation) to 9 (technology is already being fixed and incorporated into new systems), all technologies included in this project intend to serve as a benchmark for future versions of digitized governance. All technologies were analyzed according to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to strengthen the relationship between technological developments and sustainable practices. Each technology added to the radar was tagged according to its taxonomy, from software, hardware, systems, and materials to business models and policies. Ultimately, these technologies were clustered into seven affinity groups containing essays disclosing the most significant technological impacts produced in key public sectors, including Healthcare, Education & Training, Urban Mobility & Smart Cities, Travel, Tourism & Culture, Social Development & Justice, Energy & Natural Resources, and Trade, Finance & Economy.
Drivers for Smart Government Transformation
The availability of certain conditions, recourses and achievements can be not only 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 a policy of operation rather than a method 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 of 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 of security. It is to ensure personal data is safe, secure and used ethically across the 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 workability is characterized by moving quickly, easy skillfully. As technology is agile, i.e., moving fast. Digital transformation has a basic requirement for success which is indispensable: being agile. DGA has integrated the philosophy of agility in the form of ongoing assessment, continuous improvement of methodology and keeping a close observance of developing new technology. Continuous human resource assessment and providing plans for a new mindset are 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, which 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
Social Media Policies
Digital Transformation in Saudi Arabia recognizes that social media is being developed so fast and with diverse modalities and methodologies. This change is a challenge to policymakers, yet it provides opportunities for citizens to build a 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 demands much quicker and biased actions from policy makers, i.e. they need to be agile. The agility is not limited to new devices and application software but also to using data and analytics to source solutions to problems 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 that technology is changing in this field and would require more attention to such development to make such technology not only being used but used in a more efficient way. Innovation Strategy prioritizes 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 a 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.