The agreements followed the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence, launched during the Global AI Summit

Saudi Arabia has signed a series of partnership agreements with international tech companies to advance artifical intelligence (AI) in the kingdom.

The agreements, which were rigned at the virtual Global AI Summit held in Riyadh, are underpinned by Saudi Arabia’s newly-launched National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence (NSDAI).

Developing skills

Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s Huawei to enable strategic cooperation on the kingdom’s National AI Capability Development Program.

Under the MoU, Huawei will support the NCAI to train Saudi AI engineers and students, and to address Arabic language AI-related capabilities. NCAI and Huawei will also explore the creation of an AI Capability Platform to localise technology solutions.

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NCAI and Huawei will also explore the National AI Talent cultivation and onboarding programme, which will provide professional training in AI to Saudi university students, AI researchers and developers, to enable them to master AI technologies and tools.

AI for good

The Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialised agency of the United Nations, signed an MoU to collaborate on initiatives aimed at supporting and strengthening efforts to optimise the benefits of AI technologies and applications for sustainable development.

Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia will support ITU in developing projects, activities and initiatives that will, among other things, aim to facilitate greater multi-stakeholder participation, international cooperation, and knowledge sharing to accelerate progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This could potentially include developing initiatives such as an “AI Readiness Landscape Framework” that would explore and highlight country responses, progress and best practices related to AI policy frameworks.

Smart cities

SDAIA also signed an MoU with China’s Alibaba Cloud, to jointly develop digital and AI solutions in areas including safety and security, mobility, urban planning, energy, education and health.

The partnership will leverage Alibaba Cloud’s AI platform in Saudi Arabia’s cities, enabling intelligent management of city services and other smart solutions for citizens.

The national strategy

Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence is focused on six dimensions, aimed at strengthening the country’s position as a global hub for data and AI technologies. These include:

  • Ambition: Turn the country into a global leader in data and AI, including development and adoption of data and AI technologies, and as a leader of global dialogue and strategy and policy development. Saudi Arabia aims to rank among the top 15 countries in AI by 2030;
  • Skills: Transform the current and future Saudi workforce, through education, and up-skilling and re-skilling to enable Saudis to utilise the power of data and AI, in public and private sectors. Programmes are already underway with education establishments to attract, develop and retain AI talent in the Kingdom, with a target of creating 20,000 AI and data specialists and experts by 2030;
  • Policy and regulations: Create a world-class regulatory framework that will encourage and foster data-driven businesses, collection and sharing of data between government entities for the benefit of citizens, and open data;
  • Investment: Aim to attract and incentivise local and foreign investors and companies to encourage investment in qualified opportunities within Saudi Arabia. The strategy aims to attract a total of $20bn (SAR 75bn) in FDI and local investments by 2030;
  • Research and innovation: Build and enable core research and innovation institutions in data and AI, to enable the kingdom to lead in the development and commercialisation of new technologies. The nation aims to rank among the top 20 countries in the world for peer reviewed data and AI publications;

Ecosystem: Stimulate data and AI adoption through the creation of a collaborative and forward-thinking ecosystem, that will drive the commercialisation and industry application of data and AI, for the benefit of public and private sectors. The strategy aims to create the environment for at least 300 AI and data startups to thrive by 2030.

This article is published by MEED, the world’s leading source of business intelligence about the Middle East. MEED provides exclusive news, data and analysis on the Middle East every day. For access to MEED’s Middle East business intelligence, subscribe here