RIYADH — Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majed Al-Hogail said that Saudi Arabia’s goal is to make at least 10 of its cities among the top 50 global cities. “This is through achieving the factors of governance, sustainability, and interaction with the population to meet their aspirations and desires and realize a high rate of well-being for the citizens,” he said.

The minister made the remarks while inaugurating the first edition of the Global Smart City Forum 2024 in Riyadh on Monday. The two-day event is organized by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. Around 80 speakers, including global city experts, specialists in data, artificial intelligence and digital solutions, smart city engineers, investors and economic policy makers from 40 countries are taking part in the conference under the theme “A Better Life,” being held at Riyadh Arena.

Al-Hogail said that Saudi Arabia is working to find solutions to many challenges facing the growth and prosperity of cities and in all directions of the nation. “A waste management solution was presented in the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast of western Saudi Arabia, to plan and monitor operations, relying on emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things,” Al-Hogail said while noting that this was resulted in reducing violations related to waste and cleanliness by 25 percent, leading to a cleaner city.

He stated that in the city of Dammam on the coast of the Arabian Gulf, “we presented an application that manages more than 20,000 parking lots, and through it, we have access to the city’s most crowded areas so as to achieve a seamless experience for residents to find available parking.”

Al-Hogail said that the ministry is continuing, with great ambition, to build one of the most prominent national applications and models, namely “Digital Twin,” which transforms the way cities are planned and operated. “By 2025, we will be able to simulate the impact of urban policy, plan for emergencies and disasters, and connect more agencies and residents to contribute to joint design for cities with us,” he said.

Al-Hogail said that the development of smart cities takes place through four axes: an ambitious vision in Saudi Arabia, a group of licenses achieved, ongoing efforts and plans, in addition to the goal of partnership between entities to enhance urban life.

Al-Hogail stressed that the Kingdom’s ambitious vision is invested all the capabilities of the great nation so that this renaissance would be reflected positively on the entire region. “This support and ambition made us search for distinctive experiences and attract exceptional models to move towards our goals as the vision is based on creating environmental and operational systems that enhance the quality of life. It fuels innovation in the city’s services and economy,” he added.

It is noteworthy that the Global Smart City Forum is one of the steps taken toward making the Kingdom a leader among economies based on data and AI. The two-day event is expected to support the efforts of governments around the world to adopt innovative models of smart solutions that contribute to improving public services and safety, and enhance environmental sustainability, with humans at the center of development.

The forum also aims to motivate businessmen from various countries to invest in smart innovative solutions to achieve a balance between human requirements and the economic prosperity of cities, and support the creation of safe and sustainable environments in which the elements of modern life are combined.

The topics that are being discussed at the forum include the future of smart cities, challenges facing their infrastructure, finding innovative solutions to confront the growing number of population of cities of the world, learning about best practices in building smart cities and about the latest technical developments and their applications in the Kingdom, and from the experiences of other countries, in line with the aspirations of the Saudi Vision 2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

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