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Digital Inclusion

This page highlights the of Kingdom Saudi Arabia's efforts to enhance the digital inclusion of all citizens, residents, with a particular focus on people exposed to vulnerable situations. By leaving no one behind, the Kingdom can accelerate on its path towards achieving the UN Agenda 2030, SDGs, and Saudi Vision 2030.

Right of participation and inclusion

All citizens and residents in the Kingdom have equal rights to get easy and affordable access to Internet, digital government services and actively participate in the consultations and decision-making processes.
The Kingdom has implemented several projects and initiatives related to the connectivity, availability, affordability, accessibility of government portals and services, and increasing digital literacy and skills. More importantly, the Kingdom developed special initiatives and implemented measures to ensure meaningful connectivity and access to eGovernment services and build digital literacy and skills for vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, elderly, people with disabilities, poor, migrants, etc.


Digital Inclusion Strategies

Saudi Vision 2030

Digital inclusion and leaving no one behind are high on the Kingdom's Government agenda and are part of the Saudi Vision 2030 objectives. The third pillar, "An ambitious nation," directly refers 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 Vision Realization Program of the Vision 2030, the National Transformation Program identifies several objectives directly focused on the 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.

Smart Government Strategy

The Smart Government Strategy addresses Digital Inclusion in Strategic objective 1.3. Enabled and aware citizens to increase Smart Government adoption. The Strategy looks to increase citizens awareness, access, and use of Smart Government services by:

  • 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 looks to launch 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 looks to increase the reach of Smart Government services through both physical coverages in all areas of the country and knowledge on how to consume these services and ensure that a leading experience is delivered independent of the channel used.

This is incorporated into the digital-by-default initiatives with alternative access points and specific life events and personas, 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 monitors and combined with input via call and service centers for continues service improvement.


Connectivity

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

  • 100% of the population covered by a mobile-cellular network.
  • 99% of the population covered by at least a 3G mobile network.
  • 94% of the population covered by at least a 4G mobile network.

Internet Use

  • 96% of the population is using Internet.
  • 95% of the women are using Internet.
  • 97% of the man is using Internet.

Mobile phone ownership

  • 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.

ICT access at home

  • 99% of households with Internet access at home.

Mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions

  • 117% active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
  • 20% fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

5G Readiness

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.


Accessibility

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.


Affordability

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 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 through 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:

  • King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Project for General Education Development (Tatweer Project 2007-2023)

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.

  • Digital Skill Framework (DSF)

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 2018.

  • 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 cultivate 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).


Connectivity and access to eGovernment services for women and other vulnerable groups

Promoting Internet access for women and other vulnerable groups is an essential part of the economic, social and political development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Specific measures to ensure meaningful connectivity for women and other vulnerable groups adopted by the Kingdom include:

World-class ICT Infrastructure

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is among the world leaders ensuring meaningful connectivity for women in line with the SDG Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), target 5.b (Enhance the use of enabling technologies, in particular ICT, to promote women’s empowerment). It also ensured that all citizens and residents could have affordable access to Internet. By 2019, the Kingdom ensured that (Source: International Telecommunication Union (ITU)):

  • 96% of the individuals are using Internet (including vulnerable groups)
  • 95% of the women are using Internet
  • 97% of individuals a mobile phone
  • 95% of women owning a mobile phone
  • 99% of households with Internet access at home
  • 117% active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
  • 100% of the population covered by a mobile-cellular network
  • 99% of the population covered by at least a 3G mobile network
  • 94% of the population covered by at least a 4G mobile network
  • Roll-out of 5G Technology with a total of 12,302 5G towers by the end of 2020 (CITC Data)

Accessibility standards for all government portals and mobile applications

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 uses, particularly for People with Disabilities. This includes providing variable font sizes (e.g. for weak sighed), ensure contrast colors (e.g. color blind), alternative texts (e.g. for images), taps, etc. It also sets the standard on which devices used by People with Disabilities to access digital content, including screen readers and software for read-aloud or translating content into brail.
Read more about Accessibility and the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Schools Connectivity project

The Schools Connectivity project is a part of a large nationwide connectivity project for the Ministry of Education. The aim is to connect more than 3 000 remote schools with no Internet service, use satellite VSAT, and enhance and upgrade the available connectivity in more than 19 000 schools. This project is strategic and extremely important in ensuring that all schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are linked to the ministry via the Internet, thereby enabling them to access and use the services provided by the ministry’s major centralized systems FARIS, NOOR and EduMap.
Award: The “Schools Connectivity Project” won the award in category C2: Information and communications infrastructure at the WSIS Forum in 2013.

Read more about the Free of charge access on mobile applications of government services, Free of charge access to government platforms for Distance learning, and the Public Wi-Fi Hotspots.

Additional information on how the government supports access to e-Government services can be found on the following links: Women empowerment, Youth Empowerment, Rights of People with Disabilities, Elderly, Accessibility, Digital Transformation, Service Channels, and Government Mobile Applications.


Building digital literacy and digital skills for women and other vulnerable groups

Empowering women and other vulnerable groups are the central pillars of 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.).

As a recognition, some of these programs and initiatives won international awards and prizes:

Additional links:

Digital Inclusion of Saudi Rural Areas

Saudi Arabia also works to ensure digital inclusion of Saudi 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 of Saudi Arabia, breaking the digital divide and enabling inclusion, and future prosperity to those communities. Starting 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 close to 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.



Last Modified Date: 25/11/2021 - 2:09 PM Saudi Arabia Time
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