Interview: Saad bin Othman Al Kasabi
How does an extended implementation of standardisation help improve efficiency and safety?
SAAD OTHMAN AL KASABI: In light of the goals of Vision 2030, raising the share of non-oil exports to non-oil GDP from 16% to 50% is one of the Kingdom’s most important objectives. It is also one of the greatest challenges, as it requires raising the level of awareness and appreciation of applying standards to improve the comparative advantage of national products in regional and new markets. Indeed, standardisation as a whole is a fast-paced process that must be applied to new and growing sectors.
Standardisation continues to play a key role in supporting the national economy and strengthening global competitiveness. Since it is crucial to improving the quality and safety of products in the market, standardisation is one of the most important pillars for quality infrastructure. It supports a number of industries such as health, education, entertainment and ICT. It also enhances services like volunteering, social responsibility, occupational safety and health.
Which sectors do you foresee as most in need of further regulations and standards?
AL KASABI: In the context of Industry 4.0, we are witnessing increasing use of emerging and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things. Therefore, as new products and technologies enter the market at pace, standards and technical regulations must serve such industries. Without a doubt, the role of specifications in improving visual communication, keeping pace with technological developments and guaranteeing the safety of infrastructure is key. Furthermore, as Saudi Arabia is home to the two holy mosques and the leading nation in the Islamic world, there are a number of promising related sectors that we are aiming to develop. For example, SASO is working with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority and other relevant national and international parties to develop the national ecosystem for halal products. In addition, the Council of Ministers recently approved a national halal framework, and several initiatives that will support its implementation are under way.
In what ways can data-driven technology and digital platforms further improve transparency and efficiency within government bodies?
AL KASABI: Surely Saber, Ta’akkad and SASO’s other digital platforms are helping to increase the engagement and involvement of different stakeholders from the public and private sectors as well as the consumer community. With both of the aforementioned platforms, SASO aims to improve the level of liability and tractability of products delivered to the Saudi market. From a private sector perspective, it is always critical to be aware of technical regulations enforced on the various markets they target. Hence, we seek to utilise digital platforms to improve the level of transparency of our services. Moreover, we believe that such services and technologies will prevent non-conforming products and ensure fair competition in the local market.
What steps are being taken to increase investors’ satisfaction level in regard to public services and the regulatory environment?
AL KASABI: Between 2015 and 2020 there were several points of focus, such as increasing transparency in processes and outputs; communicating standards and technical regulations that are issued; utilising public hearings for our work before approval; adopting international standards; involving different parties in technical committees; and giving enough time before implementing regulations. We will continue our efforts to develop processes and utilise new technologies to achieve such strategic objectives, especially when it comes to improving our partnerships with the private sector. It is important to consolidate efforts to effectively implement quality practices in all public and private sectors and across civil society institutions.
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