The Region Aspiring to be the Next AI Innovation Superpower | Blog

Saudi Arabia is rapidly emerging as a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (gen AI) innovation. Read on to learn how the nation is making substantial investments to become a pioneer in the AI landscape, attracting significant attention from global tech and investment communities.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been historically dominated by its O&G industry and, until quite recently, was not perceived as a tech-savvy nation. However, in alignment with the region’s Vision 2030 of diversifying its economy, Saudi Arabia has all its investments in line to become a pioneer in the AI and gen AI landscape. The ripples created by this region have attracted multiple service providers, tech providers, and even the global investment world. In the past two years, the Saudi government’s focus has positioned this region as one of the top AI innovation hubs in the world.

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Fueled by its vast O&G wealth, Saudi Arabia is rocketing forward in the AI race, while other nations grapple with economic headwinds

While the resilient O&G industry of this region is one contributing factor for available funds, the region’s economy also did not take a huge hit when the global recession fears and macroeconomic conditions shook the US and Europe. While others took a cautious approach in experimenting with gen AI and budgeting for full-scale implementations, Saudi Arabia approached this opportunity head-on.

As the cost of AI experimentation is quite high, Saudi Arabia is expected to pump around US$40 billion in the development of AI and gen AI – making this region one of the biggest AI investors globally. It is also planning to invest in niche AI startups, including chip makers and data centers, which will power the next generation of computing.

Capitalizing on consistent and proactive government initiatives, Saudi Arabia is making steady strides toward becoming an AI innovation powerhouse

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Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) along with International Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research and Ethics (ICAIRE) are driving the initiatives for AI and gen AI development within the region. The Gen AI for All program supports digital cooperation and capability building for 16 member nations led by Saudi Arabia and also emphasizes the utilization of gen AI for broader global benefit.

To bolster Saudi Arabia’s Media industry by harnessing the power of AI, two new initiatives have been launched – AI Center for Media and Future Camp of Generative AI for Media.

GAIA (Gen AI Accelerator) was launched in 2023 in collaboration with SDAIA, National Technology Development Program (NTDP), and New Native (a global AI platform). GAIA’s goal is to create 300 high-impact AI startups within three years by providing early-stage funding, mentorship, and AI technology access. In 2024, the region committed an additional US$1 billion to strengthen the accelerator program.

Saudi Arabia is prioritizing security and explainability in its gen AI initiatives and fostering a trustworthy environment can attract more investments

AI and gen AI governance concerns have made many regions (especially, Europe) cautious of adopting these technologies. However, SDAIA is proactively tackling this challenge and has already defined very robust guidelines specifically for gen AI. It has released a comprehensive document on gen AI guidelines, risks, and how to better manage or mitigate them. For example, the document lists deep fakes and misrepresentation as one of the top risks. It also enumerates multiple resolutions to combat this challenge, such as watermark implementation, KYC protocols, output verification, and better digital literacy.

The document also entails multiple guidelines targeted toward the developer community working on any gen AI model within the region including fairness, reliability, responsibility, security, privacy, and social concerns.

With dedicated initiatives and strategic investments, Saudi Arabia is paving the way for innovative local enterprises trying to embrace the potential of gen AI

The region is leading by example and is expected to augment many of its current industries, such as O&G and Media, with gen AI capabilities. State-owned O&G company Aramco which is also one of the largest organizations in the world by revenue has launched a gen AI model – Aramco Metabrain AI. A pioneering technology in its industry, it can work on more than 250 billion parameters while utilizing 90+ years of company data spanning seven trillion data points. Aramco expects this initiative to optimize costs and well options by analyzing drilling plans, geological data, and historical drilling time. It will also be leveraged to forecast pricing trends, market dynamics, and geopolitical insights. By the end of this year, Aramco plans to augment this model with 1 trillion parameters. This will add another feather to Aramco’s cap as the World Economic Forum has already recognized four of Aramco’s facilities as “Manufacturing Lighthouses” for their extensive use of advanced solutions.

Government efforts in gen AI have come to fruition with a wave of technology and service providers flocking to this massive and untapped market

The push from the Saudi government and the influx of investments in gen AI has garnered attention from multiple technology and service providers. The providers are focusing on capturing this booming market by making dedicated investments in the region. For example, PwC Middle East is partnering with Microsoft to launch an AI Excellence Center in Saudi Arabia. During Riyadh’s LEAP tech conference, AWS pledged to invest US$5.3 billion into Saudi’s technology market which will be focused on setting up cloud data centers. Based on interests, budget influx, and initial gen AI PoC requests from the region, service providers are expecting Saudi Arabia to be one of the fastest growing gen AI hotspots.

In a nutshell, Saudi Arabia is the new kid on the block, and all its strategies are aligned to become an AI superpower. Riyadh will soon be transformed into a gen AI innovation hub with service and tech providers flocking to it for new deals, investments, and strategic discussions. While LEAP 2024 was a massive success with the who’s who of the tech world in attendance, providers and technology enthusiasts are already looking forward to DeepFest and what Saudi Arabia will come up with next to try to claim its position as one of the top technology hubs of the world.

If you have questions about the key gen AI developments in the Middle East or would like to discuss recent trends in the data, analytics, AI, or gen AI space, please reach out to Mansi Gupta, [email protected].

Learn more about AI and gen AI in the blog, Agentic AI – Exploring its Enterprise Potential, to learn about agentic AI, the next frontier in AI-based automation.

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