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Digital Transformation in Saudi Arabia …Strict Steps towards “Paperless Government”

Digital Transformation in Saudi Arabia …Strict Steps towards “Paperless Government”

Despite the negative impact of the Corona pandemic on the lives of individuals in the whole world, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, those who live in the Kingdom’s land have found themselves among the least affected by this pandemic.

 With the government being forced to take precautionary measures to preserve the lives of citizens and residents, those dealing with state-run agencies found themselves not obliged to stop their work, but all they had to do was download the application and spend their work while they were in their homes.

The Saudi superiority in this aspect was supported by the digital infrastructure, which the state established over the past years, that allowed it to launch many applications and programs that helped facilitate people’s lives.

Saudi Vision 2030 … Start of Digital Story

One of the most important goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Digital Transformation Program was for the Kingdom’s government to become a “Paperless Government,” and although this seems easy with the technological progress we live in, it has never been so easy, especially with the billions of paper information and data.

Despite the unpleasant surprise caused by the Corona pandemic, the Kingdom’s strong digital infrastructure contributed to accelerating the process of digital transformation in it, as this structure enabled the Kingdom to face crises that disrupt all services in the public and private sectors.

 It also contributed to the continuity of business and educational processes and all the requirements of the daily life of citizens and residents in light of the Corona pandemic. The Kingdom has been ranked among the top 10 developed countries in the world due to its strength in digital infrastructure.

Digital Transformation Unit

One of the most important things that Saudi Vision 2030 has done is that it made government work a “Participatory” one, not at the level of individual ministries. This has been done mainly through the digital transformation unit that was established in 2017.

The Digital Transformation Unit is one of the main programs that achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which works to accelerate the digital transformation in the Kingdom through strategic guidance, providing expertise and supervision through cooperation with the government and private agencies to raise the Kingdom’s index globally as the highest digitally developed country.

This unit aims, from day one, to build a digital society, a digital economy, and a digital homeland in a manner that ensures the transformation into a digital society based on the creation of digital platforms to enrich interaction and effective community participation, thus contributing to improving the experience of the citizen, resident, tourist and investor in the Kingdom.

The unit also seeks to reach a digital economy to develop the industry, improve competitiveness, positively impact the economic situation, generate knowledge jobs, and provide better services to beneficiaries.

Moreover, the unit aims to be a (Digital Home) to stimulate creativity by attracting local and global investments and partnerships in the fields of technology and innovation.

For countries today, illiteracy no longer does not mean those that do not use computers (Computer Illiteracy), as it was in the last decade of the last century, nor do countries where a large number of their people do not know how to read and write (Alphabetic Illiteracy), as it was in decades his predecessor.

But illiteracy now means (Digital Illiteracy), which is what all countries, including the Kingdom, are currently striving to eradicate.

Figures and Statistics

Several studies indicate that digital readiness and digital awareness in governments have risen to new levels at the global level, supported by rapid technological developments, and the pursuit of keeping pace with those developments.

At the level of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the talk in this part is about numbers, as the digital economy currently represents 12-15% of the gross domestic product, and the Kingdom aspires to reach it to 25% in the year 2025, according to the Center for Digital Transformation.

The Kingdom also aspires to reach the contribution of financial technology only to the GDP from 1 to 1.2 billion dollars by 2025, while providing from 5.2 to 6.2 million jobs in the same period.

Saudi Arabia has become the first globally in fifth-generation speeds, second in cybersecurity, third in employing modern technologies to contain the Corona pandemic, seventh in financing technical development, 9th in the application and development of technology, and 10th within the Group of Twenty in the index of capabilities and human capital, as well as 10 in average mobile internet speeds.

 While in 2017, Saudi Arabia was outside the top 100 countries in the latest index, and in digital competitiveness, it jumped from 39 to 34 currently, and it is expected to be in the top 20 before 2030.

Saudi Arabia jumped to 43rd place in the digital e-government index and aspires to reach the top twenty.

The Kingdom has made a qualitative leap by 40 places on the United Nations sub-index in “Digital Infrastructure” to be ranked 28th in the world and 8th at the level of the G20 countries.

At the same time, the Kingdom made another leap at the level of the “Human Capital” sub-index, as the Kingdom advanced 15 places to rank 35 globally, and tenth among the G20 countries.

The Kingdom ranked 62nd on the Ease of Doing Business index, 30 places ahead of 2019. The volume of e-commerce increased by 322% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the corresponding quarter of 2019.

Riyadh ranked 10th out of 193 cities around the world in the technology sub-index and 31st globally in competitiveness between cities, and this came in conjunction with its crowning as the first Arab digital capital in the year 2020.

First Place

Saudi Arabia was the first country to launch a digital economy policy, in which it tells its trends in the field of the digital economy, and this policy covers a set of standards from data freedom, optimal use of artificial intelligence, and the empowerment of women and youth.

It was also the first at the level of the G20 countries in the upward digital transformation, as it jumped 149 places.

 In the Ease of Doing Business 2020 report issued by the World Bank, the Kingdom ranked first in the world among 190 countries on the Business Environment Reforms Index.

Saudi Arabia was the first country to use the “Blockchain” in the scope of global trade outside the work of banks, according to the regional director of Maersk, Mohamed Shehab.

The Saudi Customs Authority had launched the first shipment from King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam to the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands on May 12, 2019, using the Blockchain system.

Five-Year Plans

Not all of this came from the moment, but the Kingdom has adopted national strategies for digital transformation and promising and ambitious five-year plans in cooperation with government agencies.

 It has developed executive plans, the third of which is currently underway, which started from 2019 and will continue to 2022.

Among its most prominent strategic plans are digital health, digital education, digital commerce, and smart cities.

Quality Initiatives

The open data platform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the important initiatives, which provides a government database, and works on developing a general strategy to enable transparency, encourage electronic participation, and stimulate creativity.

 The platform contains thousands of financial and statistical data on various fields and activities in the country. Open data is data that anyone can use freely and without technical, financial, or legal restrictions.

Among the initiatives is the Digital Giving Initiative, which aims to spread digital awareness and digital literacy by building a voluntary community of trainers and volunteers for the digital knowledge industry, and sharing it with various groups of society through events and training programs.

 The Think Tech initiative aims to spread awareness of the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to achieve sustainable development.

Yesser Program 

According to the United Nations report issued in June 2019, the Digital Transformation Panel believes that digital technologies will only be able to catalyze progress towards the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals if we think beyond the limits of access to the Internet and technologies.

 Although it is a necessary but not sufficient step, it must be followed by cooperation on the broader ecosystems that enable the holistic use of digital technologies. Or what we might call “Digital Inclusion”.

The Kingdom seeks to empower government agencies digitally through some programs provided by the e-Government Program (Yesser), to provide easy services to citizens.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology had launched (Yesser); to lead the digital transformation of government agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and improve their services by empowering and motivating them to provide sustainable integrated technology solutions.

According to those in charge of the “Yesser” program, there are 400 government agencies in the Kingdom, of which more than 220 work daily with each other to provide services to the beneficiaries.

This facilitates work within each of these bodies on the one hand and facilitates the provision of joint services with other parties on the other hand. The Kingdom currently has more than 3,300 e-services provided by more than 188 entities through more than 120 government applications.

Those in charge of the “Yesser” program are working to create a “Unified National Platform”, which works to unify the applications that provide government services in all agencies, making it easier for beneficiaries to use those applications.

Digital Government Authority 

With March 2021 start, The Saudi Council of Ministers, headed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prime Minister approved the organization of the Digital Government Authority.

The most important tasks of the authority are to participate in preparing the national strategy for digital government, organizing digital government work, platforms, websites, services, and digital government networks, following up and setting technical standards for government digital transformation models, and issuing measurements, indicators, and tools.

The authority builds specialized national capacities in the digital government to adopt and enable modern technologies, in addition to approving policies related to the authority’s activities and the plans, programs, and projects necessary to implement them.

This aims to enhance the digital government experience and raise the level of digital services to the aspirations of citizens, residents, and visitors.

Smart Government

The Kingdom is currently planning to move from e-government to smart government, which is the latest in the world in terms of government services.

The difference between e-government and the smart government is that the first means the citizen’s ability to carry out government transactions via the Internet, such as obtaining a passport, identity, and others through the websites of government agencies.

Desired Fruits of Digital Transformation

In addition to facilitating the lives of citizens and residents in the Kingdom, by facilitating the way government services are provided to them, there are many desired economic benefits through digital transformation.

 For example, in 2018, the Saudi Central Bank “Sama” signed an agreement with the American company Ripple to use the company’s technologies in external transfers between banks using blockchain technology.

This is to reduce the cost of transferred funds by 10%, which Moody’s credit rating agency indicated at the time that it will save between $ 200 and 400 million annually for Saudi banks, which can be compared to other fields.

This justifies the increase in global spending on data and analytics from $8 billion in 2011 to $35 billion in 2017, then to $122 billion in 2015, then to $187 billion in 2019, to reach $200 billion in 2020.

The expected revenue from this data is estimated at $ 103 billion in 2027, 92% of companies around the world confirm an increase in the pace of investment in data.

Digital development in Saudi Arabia in numbers

Saudi Arabia is ranked as :

1st globally among 190 countries on the Business Environment Reforms Index.

1st globally in 5G speeds.

2nd in the world in cybersecurity.

3rd globally is employing modern technologies to contain the Corona pandemic.

7th in the world in financing technical development.

9th globally in the application and development of technology.

10th globally in the index of capabilities and human capital.

10th globally in average mobile internet speeds.

1st among the G20 in digital transformation.

8th among the G-20 in the Digital Infrastructure Index.

12th among the Group of Twenty in the e-government index.

Digital services provided by government sectors in the Kingdom in numbers

Smart Government Sector

185 million authentication processes were carried out through the “Unified National Access Platform”.

7 million users served by the “Tawakkalna” application.

300 million riyals were provided in the “Good Housing” initiative.

250,000 beneficiaries of the national platform for donations.

2 million transactions were made through the “Etimad” platform launched by the Ministry of Finance.

200,000 payment transactions were made through the Zakati application from the General Authority for Zakat and Income Tax.

Health Sector

53 million appointments were provided by the “Mawd” application in its online reservation.

1.8 million medical consultations are provided by the “Seha” application to citizens.

510 health centers and hospitals have been connected to the HIS system.

45,000 e-recipes released.

Education sector

34 million sessions were held by the unified education system for more than one million beneficiaries.

09 million views of digital content on educational platforms.

2.6 million virtual chapters.

1.4 million students.

8 million hours of study.

4.5 million electronic tests.

Justice sector

Approximately 1.4 million people: have benefited from the judicial services platform “Najis”.

39,000 operations were carried out through the “Mobile Notaries” service.

119,000 judicial sessions were documented through the service.

The Public Prosecution Office adopted the strategy of “a paperless prosecution.”

Digital Infrastructure Sector

8,377 fifth-generation towers have been deployed in all regions of the Kingdom.

8.5 million citizens benefited from the Digital Giving Initiative to develop digital capabilities.

3300 e-services provided by 188 government agencies.

120 government apps

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