|11 December, 2019

Saudi ICT sector’s seven key avenues of growth

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a bold national-level change management program, driven by the significant growth already in motion in the ICT sector

Image used for illustrative purpose. Woman holding mobile phone and using laptop.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Woman holding mobile phone and using laptop.


Saudi Arabia - The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is in the midst of a digital transformation as part of its Vision 2030 initiative. The country has embarked on a bold national-level change management program, driven by the significant growth already in motion in the ICT sector.

In the latest EY report, ‘Unlocking the digital economy potential of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, we identify the seven key avenues of growth in the ICT sector that will close the degrees of separation between industries.

1. 5G growth agenda

The Saudi Government is already on track to become a world leader in 5G services and has made a major financial commitment to support its rollout. In fact, IBM predicts that 5G mobile subscriptions in KSA will reach US$ 23.2 million by the end of 2028.

2. IoT and big data scale-up

IoT is one of the most prominent growth areas in the ICT industry in KSA. The largest growth in terms of IoT deployment in the region will be recorded in the manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare sectors. The hospitality, retail, and entertainment sectors are more gradually adopting the technology to analyze consumer behavior. AI will be compulsory to analyze the huge amounts of data from IoT devices, allowing for preventive and predictive decision-making to take place.

3. E-commerce opportunities in KSA

KSA’s large consumer market has always been at the center of discussions about e-commerce potential in the GCC region. The expansion of e-commerce in the country is one of the significant goals of its development agenda and the Government is keen to increase the contribution of alternative retail channels, including e-commerce, to 80% of retail sector activity by 2030.

4. Start-up focus

Saudi Arabia’s current start-up ecosystem is currently in the early stages of development but has significant potential growth. The Government has mobilized substantial resources to provide a launchpad for start-ups and entrepreneurship, with year-on-year growth in funding and investment deals between 2018 and 2019.

5. Innovation accelerated through AI, AR, and robotics

The Saudi Vision 2030 plan highlights the country’s goal to become a global leader in the adoption and application of AI. AI, AR, IoT and M2M communication are currently in the early stages of development compared to robotics, which makes it difficult to measure their impact on the industry. However, the city of Makkah has identified opportunities around IoT and AI for smart crowd management, traffic management, and waste management during the Hajj pilgrimage season.

6. Cloud uptake

The adoption of cloud computing in KSA has grown rapidly over the past few years, with IDC Saudi Arabia predicting that the annual spending on public cloud services in 2019 is expected to exceed US$ 260 million. This will no doubt rise as an increasing proportion of organizations in Saudi Arabia have adopted, or are on the way to integrating, cloud for their computing needs.

7. Proliferation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms

OTT video streaming services have changed the business model for content creators, TV networks, and distributors as the market for on-demand services continues to gain traction. Think with Google estimates that of the 6.3 million millennials in KSA, 97.7% are online every day and 97.8% are on smartphone devices. With the onset of 5G technology and higher network speeds, industry players will have a wider range of options to reach their audiences on the go.

It's clear that Saudi Arabia has the necessary components and protocols in place, along with defined targets, to achieve its digital ambitions. Now it must continue to focus on building the infrastructure required to support a mature ICT sector that will fast-track the country’s digital revolution.

At the third edition of the Future Investment Initiative this week, EY will further explore how the digital transformation of KSA is redefining how the country does business both locally and on a global scale.

* The writer is consumer and Technology, Media & Entertainment and Telecommunications Leader, EY


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