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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The 23rd session of the Council of Arab Ministers of Communications and Information Technology (ICT) named Riyadh as the Arab world’s first-ever digital capital for the year 2020. The announcement was made at the council meeting held at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh on Wednesday.
As the only Arab nation represented in the G20, Saudi Arabia will be hosting the G20 meetings throughout 2020, under the theme of “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All.”
The G20 Leaders Summit will take place on Nov. 20-21, 2020, in Riyadh, the newly nominated Digital Capital of the Arab World.
The decision to name Riyadh as the Arab digital capital is in recognition of the Kingdom’s key role in adopting and promoting the use of digital technologies to enhance socio-economic development, advance healthcare, improve education, and to ultimately increase community welfare, which helped to elevate the ICT sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) to four percent.
The Kingdom also climbed 16 places in World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index 2019 in terms of ICT adoption, and topped in the ease of doing business ranking according to the World Bank’s 2020 report.
The ‘Arab Digital Capital’ initiative seeks to encourage the creation of a stimulating ecosystem for investment in ICT, activate initiatives that develop knowledge within ICT industry across Arab countries, and to adopt new initiatives that facilitate and enhance technology entrepreneurship in the Arab region.
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Al-Swaha congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for their unstinted support to the sector. He attributed this support to the advancement of the country’s digital infrastructure.
The minister made the remarks in his keynote speech at the ceremony of announcing Riyadh as the Arab world’s digital capital. The ceremony was also attended by secretary general of International Telecommunication Union, several ministers, Arab ambassadors accredited to the Kingdom and a number of senior ICT professionals and specialists.
Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest ICT market and ranks 13th globally, with a value of $28.7 billion in 2019 and strong growth in both the consumer and enterprise segments.
Supported by a young and tech-savvy population, the Kingdom is a market of early technology adopters, with one of the highest social media penetrations in the world. Mobile subscribers stood at 43.8 million in 2019, representing a 129 percent penetration of the total population.
Following the launch of Vision 2030, the last few years have seen a significant acceleration in the proliferation of digital transformation initiatives. In 2019, Saudi Arabia was second among G20 countries for radio spectrum liberalization, with a subsequent positive impact on the quality of digital services provided by local operators.
Supported by a 93 percent Internet user penetration versus the global average of 53 percent, Saudi Arabia also became the first adopter of commercial 5G technology in the Middle East and North Africa, and the third largest globally — an achievement that is set to boost the adoption of other digitalization trends characterizing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In parallel, the Kingdom is the 5th G20 country in Internet speed, and jumped 80 places from 105th to 25th in the relevant global rankings, with a 51.8Mbps average speed.
Earlier this year, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MICT) launched a five-year strategy aimed at accelerating the sector’s growth by 50 percent and elevating its contribution to GDP by $13.3 billion.
Despite the global trend towards job disruption as a consequence of digitalization, the MICT’s technology localization initiatives have significantly increased the ICT sector’s employment capacity in 2019.
The “Arab Digital Capital” award is a recognition of Saudi Arabia’s achievements in the ICT sector and is set to provide an even greater impetus to the country’s already busy regional and international agenda in the coming year.
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