The promise of a tech-first landscape is what Saudi Arabia projects with a multitude of strategic investments in technological innovation and digital transformation. The ICT sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country, and it is expected to contribute 12.4% to GDP by 2030. With ongoing economic diversification and ventures in multiple sectors, the surge in demand for professionals in the technology sector is paramount.
Saudi Vision 2030
Under the visionary leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia launched Vision 2030—a comprehensive blueprint to diversify the economy. Leveraging its strategic location and investment power, the government seeks to empower citizens and businesses to reach their full potential, diversify their economy, support local content, and create innovative growth opportunities.
To reduce their dependence on oil, technology and digital transformation will play a pivotal role in this vision. As a result, the technology sector is witnessing remarkable growth, attracting both local and international investment.
Thriving Tech Start-up and IT Ecosystem
Saudi Arabia is nurturing a dynamic startup ecosystem with innovation hubs such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), fostering research, development, and entrepreneurship and offering essential support and resources. These initiatives are building a strong ecosystem and creating lucrative job opportunities in AI, cybersecurity, data analytics, and software development.
Furthermore, the implementation of Vision 2030 has led to the emergence of numerous IT companies. Among them, STC Solutions, the technology arm of Saudi Telecom Company (STC), a leading telecommunications operator in the Kingdom, stands out. It provides a comprehensive suite of IT solutions and services, encompassing cloud computing, cybersecurity, and digital transformation services.
Other key players include SADAD Payment System, a fintech company offering advanced digital payment solutions; Cayan Group, a technology company specializing in innovative solutions across various sectors such as real estate, telecommunications, and information technology; and Elm, a digital solutions provider at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity. Together, these entities contribute significantly to Saudi Arabia’s rapidly evolving tech landscape.
The Shift to Digital in Critical Sectors
Saudi Arabia is actively promoting digital transformation across key sectors, creating opportunities for technology professionals to contribute to its advancement. In the healthcare industry, there is a notable shift towards telemedicine, digital health records, and AI-driven diagnostics. Similarly, the financial sector is embracing fintech, mobile banking, and blockchain technologies. As these industries progress, the demand for experts in digital strategy, software engineering, data science, and cybersecurity is on the rise.
The government has implemented various initiatives, such as the National Transformation Program (NTP) which focuses on specific economic and developmental sectors, including education, health, and finance, to create a sustainable environment conducive to digital solutions. Furthermore, the emerging tech hubs of Riyadh and Jeddah foster innovation, research, and development and attract both local and international talent, bolstering the digital landscape.
Hyper-Attention on Smart Cities and Infrastructure
Smart city projects have been launched in various cities, including Riyadh, Yanbu Industrial City, Makkah, Jeddah, Madinah, Al-Ahsa, and NEOM City. The market size of smart cities in Saudi Arabia reached $3,552.1 million in 2019 and is anticipated to grow to $14,745.2 million by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.6% from 2020 to 2027.
Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans for smart cities and infrastructure development create significant opportunities for job growth in the technology sector. The flagship NEOM project aims to establish a forward-looking city powered by cutting-edge technology and sustainable practices. Additionally, major cities like Riyadh and Jeddah are investing in smart transportation, energy management systems, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Experts in Smart city planning, IoT architecture, energy management, and infrastructure cybersecurity are in high demand due to these endeavours.
As a world logistics hub and rising industrial power, Saudi Arabia is drawing investment from all over. A case in point is the development of the Ceer electric vehicle brand through a collaboration between the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Foxconn, which is expected to create approximately 30,000 jobs. Simultaneously, the formation of the Saudi Special Economic Zone in Riyadh gives multinational companies a strong incentive to set up their regional headquarters in the country. Several financial sector entities, including BlackRock, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, and Citigroup, have recently entered or expanded their presence in Saudi Arabia. They are attracted by investment prospects in sectors aligned with Vision 2030, such as renewable energy and infrastructure.
Focus on Tech Talent Development
Dedicated to cultivating its domestic talent in the technology sector, Saudi Arabia has undertaken strategic initiatives such as the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) and the MiSK Academy. These programs aim to cultivate digital skills and entrepreneurial spirit among the country’s youth. Through scholarships and training initiatives, the government ensures that local talent is well-prepared with essential skills to spearhead the nation’s digital evolution.
Further, the government is focused on aligning curriculum with the demands of the digital age. Emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines starts at the grassroots level, ensuring a solid foundation for future technological innovators. Additionally, vocational training programs have been established to bridge the skills gap, providing practical, hands-on experiences that prepare students for careers in technology-driven industries. Also, to encourage excellence in technology-related fields, the government has instituted generous scholarship programs.
The focus on artificial intelligence is expected to intensify, with Saudi Arabia aiming to lead in AI research and applications. This includes developments in machine learning, natural language processing, and the integration of AI into various industries for improved efficiency and decision-making. The fintech sector is poised for rapid expansion, driven by a supportive regulatory environment and increasing consumer demand for digital financial services. The continued integration of blockchain and digital payment solutions is expected to reshape the financial landscape.
Further, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainability extends to innovation in renewable energy technologies. The development of solar and other clean energy solutions is likely to position the Kingdom as a leader in sustainable practices, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.
Authored by Soumi Bhattacharya
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