Bejad Al Harbi, Chairman, Technology Control Company: Interview

Bejad Al Harbi, Chairman, Technology Control Company

Interview: Bejad Al Harbi

Do local information technology and communications (ICT) firms have the capacity to facilitate a large-scale shift towards cloud computing?

BEJAD AL HARBI: Today, cloud computing is being promoted and widely viewed as a way to make organisations run more smoothly. Businesses across the globe are shifting their technological focus to this method. A study carried out by HP and Coleman Research Group reported that 85% of Saudi organisations intended to adopt cloud technologies in 2012. According to a report by the International Data Corporation, Saudi spending on such services for the 2012-16 period is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 49.7%, reaching $103.9m in 2016, from $13.82m as of 2011.

ICT companies in Saudi Arabia have proven their abilities on many fronts, including their capacity to conduct large-scale shifting of data storage. This is mainly possible because of their cooperation with international enterprises to set up data centres. The prevailing trend among local ICT companies is to partner with experienced global brands to build data centres so that, at the end of the day, companies can make use of technological systems of international quality. Such partnerships, while fostering knowledge-sharing, have helped satisfy the growing demand for data centres in the Kingdom.

Are you seeing adequate investment in ICT infrastructure to keep Saudi Arabia on track with its goals for economic diversification?

AL HARBI: Yes, absolutely. Over the last decade, we have seen ICT become the central nervous system of enterprises. As for government investment, one of the chief development objectives in the country’s long-term economic plan is to evolve into a knowledge-based economy, of which ICT is a crucial component. In line with this, the Saudi government has spent billions of dollars on building and improving the nation’s ICT systems and infrastructure. According to one report by the Ministry of Economy and Planning, a long-term national plan also exists that provides guidance for the development of science and technology more generally. All of these efforts are designed to position the country as a front-runner in the field of ICT by 2020.

The ICT sector in the Kingdom is expected to grow into a $4.9bn market by 2015. Saudi Arabia is the fastest growing ICT market in the Middle East, accounting for nearly 50% of all such investments in the GCC between 2010 and 2012. Private investment in this type of infrastructure is also impressive, as the private sector is increasingly taking a more prominent role in the economy.

What benefits have resulted from increased access to broadband networks in the Kingdom’s less developed regions?

AL HARBI: Over the last few years we have seen broadband penetration rapidly increasing, which in turn has driven an upsurge in the use of smart-phones, tablets and laptop computers. Internet and mobile broadband access has now spread across almost the entire Kingdom, and the percentage of Saudi citizens using it is increasing every year. Broadband access has reduced the rural-urban gap and improved quality of life in these areas.

The benefits are manifold. With ICT systems reaching far and wide throughout the Kingdom, people from rural areas are no longer required to move to major cities to look for work or to access government services. State offices, too, no longer need to be centralised. In the past, to cater to the public, the government had to have centres in all of the major cities. Now, with the broadband revolution, everything is at their fingertips, from issuing visas to renewing licences to applying for foreign employment visas. This has brought about great change in the overall welfare of the Kingdom, whether through economic growth or increases in the quality of life.

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The Report: Saudi Arabia 2014

The Report

This article is from the Telecoms & IT chapter of The Report: Saudi Arabia 2014.. Explore other chapters from this report.

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