The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) today hosted a pioneering IT Forum at Riyadh's Four Seasons Hotel on the current state of IT in the Kingdom, showcasing the best practices necessary for driving the industry forward. Running under the tagline of "The Challenges and Opportunities of Developing IT in Saudi Arabia", the forum provided a platform for IT policy makers, industry leaders, technology thought leaders, and IT end users to examine the current challenges facing the Kingdom and assess opportunities for future development.
CITC's Governor, His Excellency Dr. Abdulrahman A. Al Jafary, opened the day's proceedings by offering an insight into the work of his organization and detailing its role in the development of the Kingdom's IT sector. He then detailed the current state of IT usage in the Kingdom, highlighted the key hurdles to IT industry development that must be overcome, and identifies opportunities for the future expansion of the industry.
He was followed by Dr. Sulaiman Mirdad, Deputy Governor for Information Technology at CITC, who detailed the main factors necessary for enabling a fast-growing economy by analyzing a series of key IT sector development indicators, outlining the major drivers and inhibitors to IT expenditure and adoption, and discussing the impact of the global economic downturn on the Kingdom's IT sector.
The day's first panel discussion, chaired by Dr. Khalid Al Ghonaim, CEO of Al Elm Company, addressed the opportunities in Saudi Arabia for building an IT industry of the future in Saudi Arabia. Consisting of eminent national and international thought leaders, the panel assessed Saudi Arabia's current capabilities within a number of key IT industries identified by CITC for potential development, and discussed ways in which the Kingdom could capitalize on these critical opportunities. The panel opined that Saudi Arabia should focus on developing select areas within the IT services arena that optimally utilize the Kingdom's strengths and provide promising opportunities for expansion. The areas suggested included business process outsourcing and localization services, as well as high-tech manufacturing industries such as semiconductor-centric industries,
Mr. Steven Frantzen, Senior Vice President for Research in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC) then took the stage to deliver a fascinating insight into the macroeconomic, demographic, and technology landscape of the next decade, assessing the implications these will have on users, vendors, governments, and businesses in general. By the end of the decade, says Frantzen, nearly half of the planet will be using mobile devices and more than 25% will have access to the Internet, most with broadband connections and more will be outside the developed world than in. Furthermore, as many as 7.5 billion devices will be communicating over networks, while only 20% of them will be computers as we know them today. And as if to stress the enormity of this cycle of change even more, notes Frantzen, a new generation of Web 2.0-savvy will be entering the workforce, ready to connect any time, any place, for work or pleasure – and sometimes both at once.
The second panel discussion of the IT Forum addressed the need to develop a highly skilled national IT talent pool within the Kingdom. Chaired by His Excellency Dr. Khaled A. Alsabti, Deputy Minister for Educational Affairs, the panel discussed the key skills gaps that currently exist in Saudi Arabia and put forward groundbreaking strategies for overcoming them.
Dr. Mirdad then returned to the stage to chair the final session of the day, which also featured Mr. Mohammed A. Al Qassem, Secretary General of the National CIT Plan and Advisor to the Minister for Communication and Information Technology, and Dr. Ahmed A. Al Yamani, Chief Technology Officer, SAGIA. The panel provided a summary of the day's proceedings and concluded that if developed effectively, both Saudi Arabia's large young population and the wide availability of investment capital could become powerful resources on which to build sustainable, export-oriented IT industries.