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One Giant LEAP: Saudi Arabia’s Hosts World’s Largest Tech Event

One Giant LEAP: Saudi Arabia’s Hosts World’s Largest Tech Event

All eyes are on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the much-anticipated global technology event, LEAP gets ready to kick-start in Riyadh on 1 February and running until 3 February. 

The global tech event is a gathering of the world’s greatest minds, the keynote stage will explore new technologies and their positive, unlimited potential.

The major event brings together the global technology community to Riyadh to tackle the world’s biggest socio-cultural challenges of the world.

Dubbed the digital Davos, LEAP is poise to become a truly global platform for the entire innovation ecosystem. It works to link and gather pioneers and disruptors with business and government leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and more to experience and learn about the technologies of the future.

The event will welcome speakers from all around the world, including Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder, Kaspersky; Raghu Raghuram, CEO, VMware; Maelle Gavet, CEO, Techstars; Youngcho Chi, President and Chief Innovation Officer, Hyundai Motor Group; Peggy Johnson, CEO, Magic Leap; Nnenna Nwakanma, Chief Web Advocate, World Wide Web Foundation and Siim Sikkut, Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO), Estonia. They will be joined by experts from the region, including Eng. Olayan M. Alwetaid, Group CEO, STC; Eng. Salman Al Badran, CEO, Mobily; Ghinwa Baradhi, CIO MENAT region for HSBC and Sky Kurtz, founder and CEO at Pure Harvest.

LEAP will also feature inspirational stories from people like Steven Bartlett, renowned entrepreneur, and BBC’s youngest ever Dragon, as well as football legends Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo.

As global technology giants gear up to participate in one of the region’s most anticipated events, over 700 emerging technology start-ups prepare to showcase their solutions to the world.

Organised and produced by Informa Markets, LEAP is sponsored by leading local and international companies including, Microsoft, CISCO, KPMG, SoftwareAG, Nutanix, STC, Zain, Mobily and Ericsson, who will act together as strategic partners to bring this event to life.

The One Giant Leap is the latest of the Kingdom’s tech renaissance and the extraordinary transformation under HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

HRH has spared no effort to boost the Saudi tech sector, allocating $7 trillion to boost the private sector and turn the Kingdom into a global tech and innovation hub.

Over the past years, tech giants have been flocking to Saudi Arabia, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, IBM, and Cisco have all signed up to provide training for the country’s growing software development and digital sector. 

Also, the giant from the East, Huawei announced its plans to open its largest overseas flagship store in Riyadh, amid surging demand for digital products and services.

This comes as the Saudi entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem has been on the rise. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the Middle East and North Africa’s start in startup funding which hiked by 102% to record $95 million in the first half of 2020, despite the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha said: “Technology and innovation have enormous potential to transform economies and societies. We live in a time where you either leap or be left behind. We are proud to host LEAP to help the region lead and leapfrog with technology and innovation”.

Mike Champion, Regional Executive Vice President of Informa Markets, the largest events company in the world, said “Informa are delighted to have launched LEAP in Saudi Arabia. It is clear to us that with the enormous technology projects happening in the country, there is no hub in the world better placed to host such an amazing event. In its first year, LEAP will be the largest debut technology event in history, and there can be no better evidence than that to prove Saudi Arabia is a future global technology hub.” 

Saudi global LEAP into the future

The huge technology event LEAP, a kind of World Economic Forum of the future, which will be held at the Riyadh Front exhibition center will lead the move towards the Saudi tech future. 

It will gather many of the world’s most influential thinkers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and government representatives. Under one roof, all these intellectual minds will engage with new technologies and explore how to tackle some of the planet’s biggest challenges. They will be joined by more than 700 startups that could each have a major impact on the way we live our lives.

With its brimming program of keynotes, workshops, and assemblies—which embrace everything from smart cities to space and satellites—LEAP mirrors Saudi Arabia’s own digital journey. 

The Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha is scheduled to showcase the Kingdom’s digital transformation journey, highlighting its role in achieving the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.

Additionally, the Saudi Minister of Communication will provide updates regarding the Kingdom’s digital transformation strategy.

LEAP Sessions and Programs

According to the event organizers, LEAP is poised to galvanise public and private organisations in the region and beyond, drive female empowerment, unlock the Kingdom’s boundless investment potential for seismic economic diversification, and propel the nation into the ranks of the world’s top 20 tech-enabled nations.

The landmark technology event will focus on several tech areas and their impact on the way we live, such as health tech, future energy, and smart cities. It will tackle their challenges and opportunities to better our societies and the way we live. 

Nevertheless, it will also tackle artificial intelligence, blockchain and crypto, robotics, 3D Printing, IoT, biotech smart mobility and unmanned systems, opensource, quantum, 5G, materials science, space and satellites, data and fintech.

Promising hundreds of hours of thought-leading conference content, keynote presentations, talks and lively debates with the major global tech disruptors and change-makers, audiences will also gain penetrating insights into tech advancements across several dedicated stages.

During the event, experts and tech leaders will discuss how we can develop biometric-enabled life, but will also consider how tech will influence global finance hubs in the future. 

Also, the event is poised to discuss how can we augment the human body with robotics.

Set to showcase a jaw-dropping amount of inspiring technology across all major sectors including health, finance, energy, education, digital entertainment, transport, smart cities and more. LEAP will be led by a speaker faculty of globally celebrated tech innovators and will focus on the most inspiring case studies around the world – and of course, the current Giga and mega-projects financed and being delivered right now in Saudi Arabia.

LEAP won’t be like any other tech event. Backed by a multitude of government organisations, LEAP will serve as a catalyst for monumental digital transformation across every sector of Saudi industry and business. Merging large-scale tech adoption solutions and ambitious pilot projects, 

As Minister Al-Swaha said: “LEAP will be a key factor in growing the IT sector, boosting ICT’s GDP contribution by SAR 50 billion over five years, securing foreign investment, assisting our Saudisation employment ambitions, empowering a female workforce and attracting international talent.”

“We bring together the world’s greatest minds; from leading technology corporations, inspiring pioneers from global start-ups and venture capitalists with the means to make it all happen. If you are seriously interested in new technology and its positive, unlimited potential, you just cannot miss it,” the event website indicated.

Nevertheless, LEAP will provide an outlet for international innovators and business hopefuls will gain unprecedented access to potential investors and end-users via bespoke ‘LEAP Investor Club’ meetings designed to foster accelerated development programmes. Venture capitalists, private equity providers, sovereign wealth funds, corporate and government accelerators, family offices, university R&D labs, incubators, and angel investors will form the backbone of the Investors Club, with attendees eager to hear, see and purchase the latest tech solutions.

“LEAP Forward” stage covers the most prominent future technologies—from self-driving vehicles and AI to exosuits, nanorobotics, augmented reality, and bionics. There are also various sessions on the future of reality, exponential AI, future cities, smart living, and future health care.

Speaker line-up 

Raghu Raghuram, chief executive of VMware, the California-based cloud computing giant, and Börje Ekholm, president and chief executive of Ericsson, are among the high-profile speakers confirmed for the event. Others include Steven Bartlett, the youngest-ever dragon on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den; Carlo Ratti, founding partner of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, which researches the impact of new tech on urban living; Dr. Saket Kumar, a chief data scientist for Global Premium Services at Google; Celeste Fralick, the chief data scientist at security software company McAfee; Siim Sikkut, the government chief information officer in Estonia; and Supreet Manchanda, managing director of Silicon Valley and Toronto-based tech investor Raiven Capital.

Regional speakers, meanwhile, include Manar Al-Moneef, the regional chief executive of GE Renewable Energy, and Ghinwa Baradhi, HSBC’s chief information officer in the Middle East and North Africa, who are both involved in some of the mega projects being financed and delivered in Saudi Arabia. In total, more than 450 speakers and 40,000 visitors are expected to attend the event.

The event is also rich in inspiration and insight from the sporting world, including addresses from France’s Stéphane Houdet, a top Paralympian tennis player, and soccer legends Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos, who recently partnered with SportsIcon in one of sport’s first non-fungible token (NFT) schemes. They will be joined by former Real Madrid teammate Michel Salgado, who now runs the Dubai grassroots club Fursan Hispania.

According to Mike Champion, regional executive vice president of Informa Markets, which is staging LEAP, the event is integral to the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s five-year strategy, announced in 2019, which is aimed at accelerating the growth of the kingdom’s digital economy by 50%, and elevating its economic contribution by $13.3 billion.

“Informa receives many proposals from countries to help build them a global technology event. In this instance it was clear to us that Saudi Arabia was the forerunner,” says Champion. “We believe that the kingdom is a future epicenter of technology—the inspiring vision of the government, coupled with its enormous energy to achieve huge strides in technology adoption, has meant that when LEAP kicks off, it will be the largest technology event ever launched.”

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