It was in the news recently that Saudi Arabia has been actively pursuing to promote its bilateral relations and collaborative efforts with France to boost the digital economy.
It is not new and during 2018 April, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had met President Emmanuel Macron for putting discussions on collaboration in the digital economy and renewable energy sectors with a shared vision and forward-looking investments for company formation in Saudi Arabia.
The two countries are looking to expand beyond mere business and investments and working on technology and knowledge transfer efforts in the areas of digital technology and entertainment.
In a meeting held in the recent past, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawahah has discussed with the Ambassador of France to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ludovic Pouille, various measures of enhancing initiatives in these areas.
Saudi Minister Eng. Al-Sawahah emphasized the Kingdom’s digital structure supporting megaprojects, the presence, and availability of a supportive digital legal framework besides the human capital of national cadres with a high degree of professionalism that contributed to accelerating Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation.
The minister also highlighted that Saudi Arabia is striving for developing capabilities and capacities in the telecommunications and information technology sectors by increasing Saudi National cadres and supporting raising participation from Saudi women.
The two national representatives also reviewed Saudi Arabia’s efforts towards stimulating innovation and investment in the overall technology sector including new business setup in Saudi Arabia and other investment opportunities for French technology companies in the Kingdom’s telecommunications and information technology sector.
Digital technologies are a crucial aspect of Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan Vision 2030 that was launched in 2016.
Vision 2030 put forward several strategic goals for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors including the expansion of high-speed broadband coverage to 90% of households in densely populated cities and 66% of households in other urban areas.
The vision also aimed at strengthening partnerships with the private sector for the development of new ICT infrastructure and enhance the expansion of digital services in society to curb unnecessary bureaucracy.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 heavily relies on the experience and technological know-how of friendly nations including France to realize its objectives. There are mega-projects in Saudi Arabia where France is already contributing, mainly in the field of tourism and hospitality.
France’s relations with Saudi Arabia are old and apart from technology, business and investments also focus on common strategic interests such as preserving security in a troubled region, the mutual commitment to combating terrorism, and a convergence of views on regional crises. There are regular periodic bilateral official visits between the two countries that demonstrate a strong and strategic partnership between France and Saudi Arabia.
There are discussions and dialogues in many areas that create a solid ground for confidence and regular pass official exchanges on bilateral issues including human rights, fundamental freedoms to women most important to France.
Digitalization affects every aspect of Saudi life and can improve production, services, including healthcare, agriculture, transport, education, climate change, and public governance. Keeping this in mind Saudi Arabia formed the 2020 Digitization Task Force and framed many policy actions.
The task force tabled the main four recommendations namely Enabling and Supporting Resilient Digital Infrastructure, Supporting the Healthy Development and Adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Laying the Foundations for Smart Cities, and Driving Digital Inclusion and Growing Digital Skills.
Areas of Smart Infrastructure, Energy, Transport, Water and Waste, Social and Buildings have been identified as key areas based on which key policy actions have been framed.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also identified many Elements of ICT Infrastructure needed for smart cities such as data warehouses, sensors, and actuation Technology, networks, advanced applications, and analytics