Industry leaders identify key components driving Saudi digital economy


RIYADH — Saudi Arabia continues to reshape its future through a rigorous digital approach, according to key industry leaders at a thought leadership event hosted Monday in Riyadh by The Economist Corporate Network and sponsored by Oliver Wyman.

Saudi millennials, smart cities and the government’s innovation initiatives were discussed as the key components needed to drive the digital economy agenda in the Kingdom.

The speakers discussed how the country’s young demographic are largely equipped to make the digital transition smoother. With high disposable income and being among the world’s highest internet and smartphone penetration rates, Saudi millennials are anticipated to contribute, unabatedly, to the Kingdom’s growth narrative through growing consumption, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

With the National Transformation Program 2020 and Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 now in their implementation phases, the concept of a smart city has leapfrogged from theory to reality as a growing number of global business capitals and trade hubs are embracing it. National visions coupled with the next generation infrastructure and dense urbanization is likely to set the stage for a truly smart economy, according to the panelists.

Ranya Afifi, General Manager, The Economist Group, Middle East, said: “We’re proud to have created a platform in which the digital future of Saudi Arabia could be discussed at length among key industry players from the private and government sectors. With the government’s continued efforts to introduce innovative initiatives, the agendas of the NTP 2020 and the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 are bound to be transformational and will deliver a more diversified economy.”

The third component of the digital economy in Saudi Arabia is the role the government will play in the Kingdom’s transitionary phase. Policies that facilitate ‘innovation’ are fundamental for governments looking to deliver improved services.

“The Kingdom, with Vision 2030, has set aspirations on creating and dominating the industries of the future. The industrial strategies, investment priorities, research and development along with education are now well aligned to realizing these aspirations,” said Anshu Vatts, Partner, Head of Public Sector, MEA.

“With a young population already steeped and deft in the digital technologies, there is a generational opportunity for the Kingdom to seize the opportunity and create very significant GDP growth impact - delivering long term sustainable prosperity to its citizens. This event hopes to bring some of the key thinkers at the cross roads of these initiatives together to accelerate the journey.”

The event took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, Riyadh. — SG