First announced on April 25, 2016, Saudi Vision 2030 is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
The Vision encompasses three main themes:
- A vibrant society is vital to achieving the vision and establishing a strong foundation for economic prosperity. It focuses on strong roots, fulfilling lives, and strong foundations.
- A thriving economy provides opportunities for all by building an education system aligned with market needs to give youth the skills they need for jobs of the future and creating economic opportunities for the entrepreneur, the small enterprise, and the large corporation. It focuses on rewarding opportunities, investing for the long term, and being open for business.
- An ambitious nation applies efficiency and responsibility at all levels in order to deliver the vision, including building an effective, transparent, accountable, enabling, and high-performing government. It focuses on effective government and responsible enabling.
Key goals of Saudi Vision 2030 include reinforcing economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil international trade, and promoting a softer and more secular image of the Kingdom. Among the measurable goals leaders would like to achieve by 2030 are the following:
- Raise its position from 26th to 10th in the Social Capital Index
- Move from its current position as the 19th largest economy in the world into the top 15
- Increase the localization of oil and gas sectors from 40% to 75%
- Increase the Public Investment Funds assets from SAR 600 billion to more than 7 trillion
- Raise its current position from 25th into the top 10 countries on the Global Competitiveness Index
- Increase foreign direct investment from 3.8% to the international level of 5.7% gross domestic product (GDP)
- Increase the private sector's contribution from 40% to 65% of GDP
- Raise its global ranking in the Logistics Performance Index from 49th to 25th and ensure the Kingdom is a regional leader
The expected transformation has and will continue to rely heavily on technology: it is the key enabler and driver of the numerous changes envisaged in the initiative. According to Saudi Vision 2030, "In technology, we will increase our investments in, and lead, the digital economy."
Developing a Digital Infrastructure
The plan suggests that "sophisticated digital infrastructure is integral to today's advanced industrial activities. It attracts investors and enhances the fundamental competitiveness of the Saudi economy." As an essential part of the initiative, Saudi Arabia plans to partner with the "private sector to develop [its] telecommunications and information technology infrastructure." This will lay the foundation for a more sophistical platform and enable the Kingdom to enhance its position in the retail and hospitality industries. Here is how technology can aid in achieving Saudi Vision 2030.
Saudi Arabia is the second-largest tourist destination in the Middle East. Indeed, tourism is a pillar of the nation's economy. Although most tourism largely involves religious pilgrimages, the leisure tourism sector is expected to grow as the Kingdom promotes all types of visits.
In September 2019, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to visitors from all over the world through a new entry visa regime. Tourists can now obtain a multiple-entry visa valid for a year that allows them to stay in the country for up to 90 days. The visa is relevant to tourism-related activities and Umrah (excluding Hajj season) but excludes other activities such as studying.
Now that access has been improved, the government's goal is to invest in cultural and entertainment activities that attract additional visitors to the Kingdom.
Leaders are starting to address the tourism chain and using technology to improve all aspects of it, including the following areas:
- Travel research and planning (traditional travel agents, online travel agents, tour operators)
- Transportation (airlines, cruises, taxis, buses, private services)
- Hotel accommodations, restaurants, shopping, entertainment
- Sightseeing and excursions
- Communication services (roaming, WiFi)
One example of technology that can be used to enhance tourism is the Ombori Grid. This product's presence at the Madrid airport shows how technology can support an omnichannel approach. The airport hosts kiosks that leverage the Ombori Grid Guided Selling Assistant, which improves the customer experience.
The Guided Selling Assistant, which is powered by Microsoft's Azure cloud, allows shoppers to scan their boarding pass from a smartphone and find information about their flight and gate number. It also provides a weather forecast for their destination, shared information, and directions for in-airport amenities and restaurants. In addition, it offers assistance with shopping at the Dufry duty-free outlet.
The Ombori-Microsoft solution exemplifies how the cloud and retail display technology can boost sales by putting customers at ease, simply by providing timely travel information where they are. It's a win-win solution that helps store sales and duty-free shoppers to manage [their] time between the store and the departure gate.
This is just one example of how technology can be used to achieve the goals identified in Saudi Vision 2030.
A New Islamic Museum
In addition, Saudi Arabia is hoping to capitalize on its rich history and culture to promote tourism. A specific project outlined in Saudi Vision 2030 is the country's intent to "build an Islamic Museum in accordance with the highest global standards, equipped with the latest methods in collection, preservation, presentation, and documentation. It will be a major landmark for our citizens and visitors, where they will learn about the history of Islam, enjoy interactive experiences, and participate in cultural events."
The museum will use modern technology to assist visitors in taking "an immersive journey through the different ages of Islamic civilization, as well as its science, scholars, and culture."
Ombori Grid digital signage offers an example of how technology can enhance an interactive experience. The platform is able to display static images or text, videos, and multimedia and includes fully interactive Web apps.
Likewise, technology can be used to enhance e-commerce efforts within Saudi Arabia: "The Vision has identified that traditional retail dominates about 50 percent of the market in the Kingdom compared to 20 percent in a number of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with the retail market suffering from limited penetration of modern trade and e-commerce. The government aims to increase the contribution of modern trade and e-commerce to 80 percent in the retail sector by 2030. This [can] be achieved by attracting both regional and international retail investors, increasing financing of small retail enterprises to stimulate their growth and development, and easing restrictions on ownership and foreign investment."
To transition, the country could consider adopting an omnichannel approach for retailers. Such an approach blends the digital world with the physical world. Retailers around the globe are turning to solutions such as Ombori Grid to implement omnichannel marketing within their brick-and-mortar retail locations. Ombori Grid Endless Aisle, for example, introduces an omnichannel approach to shopping. Endless Aisle is a digital sign that directs customers to available products within a store. If a product is unavailable, customers can simply scan a QR code to connect to an ordering option on their phone.
Streamlining e-Government Processes
Saudi Arabia is strategically implementing tech solutions to become a leader in e-government as well. According to Altamimi & CO, "To date, a good deal of progress has been made in e-government with the scope of online services having been expanded over the last decade to include employment programs, online job searches, e-learning services, traffic, passports, and civil affairs, online payment services, and online issuance of commercial registers."
The report also explained that "the scope of current online services will be expanded further to include areas such as geographic information, health care, and education. Quality is slated to improve by streamlining processes and diversifying communication channels. The government will also support the wider use of online applications in government agencies, such as cloud applications, data sharing platforms, and HR management systems."
Leveraging virtual queueing systems can help improve the country's position and help it meet its overall objectives. Ombori virtual queuing system, although initially designed for the retail industry, can also be used in ways to help cities manage a wide range of public services, including the following:
- Utility payments
- Building permits
- Tax payments
- Police stations and courthouses
- Train and bus stations
Growth Through 2030
Sources report that "five years after Vision 2030 was unveiled, many noteworthy achievements have been made to support the Kingdom's economic diversification objectives and build a prosperous future for the people of Saudi Arabia."
Although nearly a decade remains for the country to achieve its overall vision, leaders intend to continue moving forward at full speed. By leveraging the expertise of tech companies and utilizing solutions such as those offered by Ombori Grid, the Kingdom continues to take steps toward creating a prosperous future for its residents, economy, and government. As the next decade unfolds, it will be exciting to witness the country's progress in achieving Saudi Vision 2030.
Andreas is Founder and CEO of Ombori. He is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies, starting in his teens. He has a background in cybersecurity, and has worked for companies such as H&M and Nordnet Bank. Andreas is a passionate believer in digital transformation, and is constantly seeking ways in which technology can change the way we work, shop, and live our lives.