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Saudi Arabia is likely to become a top 10 AI country - and most of the world has not noticed
By Calum Chace  |  Oct 27, 2022
Saudi Arabia is likely to become a top 10 AI country - and most of the world has not noticed
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When people think of Saudi Arabia, they often think of its vast oil reserves and its role as one of the most important countries in the Islamic world, not to mention OPEC. Yet when it comes to AI, Saudi Arabia receives far less attention than the neighboring UAE, but in recent years it has been quietly building itself into an AI power to wean itself off oil and transform its capabilities.

RIYADH - Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s radical and ambitious plan to transform both its economy and the lives of its people. Its leaders have identified artificial intelligence (AI) as a vital tool to help enable this transformation, so they have set themselves the goal of becoming one of the world’s top 10 developers of AI systems by the end of the current decade.

As things stand now, the country is making remarkable progress with both AI and the overall transformation, but these efforts have largely gone unnoticed - at least in the West.

For reasons that will be covered later in this article, the global AI summit that was recently held in Riyadh received very little coverage in Western media, despite its considerable size and significance, with 4,000 delegates gathered in the strikingly opulent Ritz Carlton Hotel, which was built in 2011 as a palace for hosting diplomats. Partnerships were announced with a range of organizations, most notably a digital development partnership with the World Bank. Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco - the world’s second-largest company - announced the creation of a Global AI Corridor, which will include an academy, a startup incubator, and research and development labs.

The kingdom’s bid for a leadership role in global AI is being led by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA), which was established in 2019 and is chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, who is universally known as MBS. No other country has an AI governing body chaired by its head of state. The SDAIA sets the national strategy, which is then executed by three other bodies: the National Data Management Office and the National Center for AI - which were established at the same time as the SDAIA - and the National Information Center, which pre-dates them. The National Center for AI has often been described as Saudi Arabia’s nascent version of Google’s Deep Mind, and it is busy training and recruiti

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