Saudi Government Selects IBM As A Partner For Digital Skills Building


According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report, Saudi Arabia is currently the world’s ninth most advanced country for digital skills.

Keen to expand on its excellence, the country’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is unrolling a range of key initiatives as part of a five-year roadmap.

Since its launch in 2014, the annual Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum – one of the world’s top think tanks – assesses how countries score on a range of macroeconomic, microeconomic and societal factors. The index aims to help policymakers and executives with decision-making.

In the area of digital skills (one of the many areas assessed), Saudi Arabia is a notable standout performer, ranking ahead of economic giants such as the United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.

The World Economic Forum attributes the Kingdom’s progress to a number of factors, including its adoption of information and communication technology in the public and private sectors, the Kingdom’s digital legal framework, the relatively high share of digital literacy, and the high percentage of digital inclusion.

Special note is given to the role of four academies in enhancing digital skills – namely, Saudi Digital Academy, Misk Academy, Tuwaiq Academy, and National Information Technology Academy. The initiatives have helped reach more than 15 million beneficiaries, with more than 70,000 young people benefiting from initiatives to enhance their digital skills and more than 31,000 trainees and trainees in the Future Skills initiative.

Aiming for more with IBM

But under the country’s ambitious Vision 2030 agenda, the Kingdom aims for more. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s five-year roadmap seeks to cement Saudi Arabia in WEF’s top 10 and leapfrog nearest rivals such as Denmark, Israel and Singapore.

During the arrival of US President Joe Biden (in his first visit to the kingdom since last year), it became clear that IBM would play an integral part in the ministry’s agenda.

A five-year memorandum of understanding has been struck, which will see the consulting and technology giant support a number of key initiatives.

For starters, IBM will implement eight innovative initiatives to bolster the Kingdom’s position as a hub of technology and innovation in the Middle East and North Africa region. “In this pillar, we will help identify, co-create, and co-develop innovative applications to provide the Kingdom with access to advanced technology aligned to its Saudi Vision 2030 objectives,” explained Fahad Alanazi, General Manager of IBM in Saudi Arabia.

A second pillar revolves around joint research on topics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, cloud and digital innovation.

Third, IBM will support multiple projects within the public sector. The firm’s remit will span consulting (led by IBM Consulting), execution support and capability transfer. On the latter point, within five years, the memorandum aims to hold 100 workshops with government agencies and train 600 public sector employees.

Finally, the agreement will see IBM support the upskilling of 100,000 Saudis, focused on “critical areas where the use of technologies is fundamental,” said Alanazi.

Commenting on the agreement, Issam Al-Thukair, Deputy Minister for International Cooperation and Partnerships, said: “Within the framework, IBM will help boost the Kingdom’s leadership in digital capabilities.”