Saudi ICT investment exceeds SR 135 bn

The Saudi ICT market is the biggest in the Middle East, both in terms of capital value and volume of spending, according to Abdulaziz Al-Noghaither, CEO of Intel.

Saudi Arabia accounts for more than 70 percent of the GCC’s ICT market with capital investment exceeding SR 135 billion in the past 10 years, Al-Noghaither told Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News in an exclusive interview.

Al-Noghaither, who has extensive experience of over 20 years in local and regional businesses, stated that the Kingdom’s spending on IT is the highest in the Middle East and the Saudi government is very keen to create the IT environment that enables knowledge and skill development.The following is the text of the interview:What is Intel’s strategy in the IT market, and how would you evaluate the changes in this market over the past 10 years? Intel has always been at the forefront of innovation in the IT industry and historically has been responsible for some of the technology industries’ “firsts.” Intel set the standards for several day-to-day technologies, such as USB, Ultrabook, Servers, cloud computing and Bluetooth wireless interconnect. We have witnessed so many changes in the past 10 years: Internet transforming from dial-up to super speeds, and the developments in mobile computing have made our lives much easier. There are exciting times ahead.Could you tell us the Kingdom’s position among GCC and world IT markets? CITC estimates that the volume of spending on the ICT services is up to SR 94 billion in 2012 compared to SR 21 billion 2002, resulting in an average annual growth of about 14 percent. The spending on information technology is around 30 percent of the total volume of expenditure, mostly concentrated in spending on hardware and IT services. This spending on ICT products and services is expected to grow by more than 10 percent in 2013. The ICT market in the Kingdom is the biggest in the Middle East, in terms of capital value and volume of spending, and accounts for greater than 70 percent of the GCC ICT market with capital investment exceeding SR 135 billion in the past 10 years.What is IT markets contribution in the Kingdom’s GDP. Do you think that this sector needs more foreign investment? The growth of capital investment, development and expansion, and of ICT networks have significantly contributed to the national gross domestic product (GDP). This has been the result of liberalizing the telecommunications sector and opening the markets to competition, which in turn has attracted investments and growth of the sector. The deployment of modern technology and availability of applications have the positive effect of raising the efficiency of other economic sectors as well. The growth in GDP in 2011 was SR 2.1 billion or about 7 percent. According to CITC estimates, the contribution of the ICT sector is around 3 percent and has been rising over the past three years.

What is your evaluation of the IT market growth locally, and how do you think this industry will shape up in the next 10 years? The local IT market continues to grow at a steady rate. The cloud has changed how consumers and enterprise share their data. Mobile computing continues to be the area of rapid growth. Smart phones, tablets and Ultrabooks now offer users a more immersive and dynamic experience thanks to more processing power, longer battery life and a wider range of services than ever before.Do you think that Saudi government is giving enough attention to the IT industry? IT today is not an option; it’s in the core of all our life aspects. The government is part of the eco-system in the IT industry along with the international and local IT companies. They all need to work together to sustain the growth of the country’s economy.How does the current financial crisis affect the IT market worldwide, and what is its impact on the Saudi IT market? The Saudi IT market has continued to flourish despite the downturn in other world markets. The people of Saudi Arabia are technology hungry; they demand the latest device and the fastest processors.Looking ahead, what are the key challenges that the IT sector faces today? IT is a fast growing industry; so we need to be flexible enough to adapt to this fast growth and to make sure we utilize the available technologies for a better tomorrow.What does it take to create an effective IT competitive market in Saudi Arabia? Awareness and education is the key factors to create a competitive market. This is always a work in process as technology never stops developing.Tell us what are Intel’s plans for the future, and how do they cooperate with Saudi firms.

For over 40 years, Intel has been creating technologies that advance the way people live, work, and learn. These technology advancements are used to shape the future through new life-enhancing innovation that create new markets, solve real world problems, and inspire the next generation of innovators. We believe that to foster innovation and drive economic opportunity for everyone, we need to invest in research, exploration and education that allow people to challenge common assertions and explore opportunities with innovative approaches. Through this kind of commitment, we expect a growing economy, increased competitiveness to meet the challenges of today, as well as being better prepared for the unforeseen challenges of tomorrow.Does the Saudi government benefit from the IT solutions available in the market or do they still lag behind? As mentioned the spending on IT in Saudi Arabia is the highest in the Middle East and the Saudi government is very keen to create the IT environment that enables knowledge and skill development providing opportunity for social and economic advancements.How does Intel support the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector in the Kingdom? We believe SMEs are the key to the future success of the Kingdom. We are fortunate to have a great entrepreneurial spirit here in the Kingdom. Entrepreneurial skills are best developed through hands-on education. Intel’s programs provide opportunities for individuals to gain the experience and skills needed to turn ideas into thriving businesses. Programs such as National Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge (NTEC) and Intel Global Challenge (IGC) promote entrepreneurship among university students. They reward ideas with potential to be viable businesses and make a positive impact on society. Such initiatives provide mentorship to students as they gain experience-building business plans to bring innovative technologies to market.Saudization enforced by the government has affected many sectors. How do you evaluate the Saudization impact on the Kingdom’s IT market? This is a natural move where any country would do to empower its youth. Already a lot of Saudi youth are leading businesses in many local and international IT companies. Intel is one example where Saudis are leading important roles in the company driving the best outcomes for the company and the country.Does the Kingdom achieve good results in terms of IT education. What are your suggestions for this sector’s further growth? Technology is increasingly becoming a requirement for businesses competing in the global marketplace. It can enable innovation in any business by providing opportunities to develop new products and services, reach new markets and increase productivity. The government recognized this and has invested greatly in building the Kingdom’s IT expertise. At Intel, we actively encourage young people to follow a career in technology through our local initiatives in the Kingdom.