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Saudi Arabia wants to become a world leader in IT and the digital economy. Announced $12 billion investment in emerging technologies, innovation and cloud computing

Meanwhile, Microsoft signs a deal for 5G in the Middle East and accelerates its telecommunications push



Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah Alswaha announced today at the opening of LEAP24 exhibition $11.9 billion in investments during the event, which started today and will run until March 7, to support deep and emerging technologies, innovation, and cloud computing in Saudi Arabia and worldwide, according to a press release issued today by the organizing committee.


Photo: SPA

Alswaha highlighted "the unwavering support" that HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, has shown Saudi and global tech sectors, to help the digital economy grow and prosper, as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.


 The release said that the investments will help consolidate the Kingdom’s position "as the largest market and digital economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)" for leading technology companies such as Amazon Web Services, IBM, Datavolt and ServiceNow.


 The investments will go toward developing Saudi digital skills and supporting tech start-ups.


 According to the release, on the first day of LEAP24, Amazon Web Services announced a $5.3 billion investment in a new cloud zone in Saudi Arabia. Datavolt also announced a $5 billion investment in Saudi data centers with a capacity of more than 300 megawatts.


 IBM plans to invest $250 million in a global software development center in the Kingdom. ServiceNow will invest $500 million to localize its regional services in Saudi Arabia, with training and development programs to upskill and train Saudi talent.


 Dell will open a manufacturing and fulfilment center in Saudi Arabia, the first of its kind in the MENAT region.


 Aramco announced the establishment of the Saudi Accelerator Innovation Lab (SAIL). Aramco and MCIT co-founded SAIL to strengthen Saudi Arabia's digital capabilities and to launch the "Metbrain" GenAI model; it also announced "Aramco LLM", the world’s first industrial grade GenAI.


 Datadog will establish the first cloud application security solutions academy in the Kingdom, and Uipath announced the establishment of its first-in-the-region automation academy to train, upskill, and foster Saudi talent.


Microsoft seals Middle East 5G deal as its telecom push accelerates


According to Asia Nikkei, Microsoft's bid to challenge Huawei Technologies and other telecom equipment makers is gathering steam after the software giant recently signed a deal to help build a 5G standalone network in the Middle East.


The U.S. company announced this week that it will help Abu Dhabi-headquartered Etisalat, also known as e&, build a network around the United Arab Emirates.


"This is the second major project to use our hybrid cloud Azure Operator Nexus after AT&T," Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Azure for Operators, told Nikkei Asia on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. MWC is the year's biggest telecom industry event.


Microsoft's deal represents a win not only for the company but for proponents of Open RAN, an effort to establish common standards for base stations. The aim of Open RAN is to crack open the trillion-dollar telecom infrastructure market dominated by Huawei of China, Ericsson and Nokia. Radio access networks, or RANs, are a crucial part of telecommunication networks.


Microsoft, Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among companies hoping a wave of 5G upgrades and surging demand for generative AI will spur adoption of Open RAN.

AT&T, America's biggest telecom operator, was the first of Microsoft's carrier clients to adopt its cloud-oriented core network to deliver 5G connectivity. This deal was announced in 2021.


Khalidi said Microsoft began increasing its focus on the telecom industry around five or six years ago after the company expanded the number of customers using its cloud service in "mission critical" industries such as banking.


"We were serving their [telco] needs for enterprise applications for back office, but we were not serving the needs for the core network. It was at that time we realized that we have asset technology knowledge that can be applied to the carrier-grade network," the executive said.


Microsoft's advantage in the telecom arena is its ability to bring together cloud and AI technology. The company is the major investor behind Open AI, the generative AI startup that created ChatGPT, and earlier this week said it was investing $16 million in Mistral AI, a France-based AI model startup.


Khalidi said his team provides all of the support for users of the Azure Operator Nexus platform. "We are the tip of the iceberg ... [as] we are backed by literally thousands of developers. We have hyperscale. This is important."


Without Microsoft, the executive said, telecom operators would have to hire hundreds of developers and deal with things like software updates or validation.

"I'm optimistic that other operators are seeing that now that we have AT&T using this model, and e& ... it is encouraging others to also follow."


Separately during the MWC, Microsoft joined Nvidia, Ericsson, Softbank and T-mobile in launching the AI RAN Alliance, an initiative aimed at incorporating AI into connectivity technology.


Update

As part of the activities accompanying the #LEAP24  exhibition held in Riyadh, the Ministry of Media today signed several agreements and memoranda of understanding with local and international companies and entities, in the presence of Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosari. Vice Minister of Media Dr. Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Maghlouth signed the agreements, which included a cooperation agreement with #Alibaba and #AlibabaCloud.


The agreements aim to develop training programs for workers in the media sector, focusing on #ArtificialIntelligence and other technical fields. Additionally, they aim to host the ministry's infrastructure, services, and platforms, among others, in #AlibabaCloud's data centers. This includes hosting the Disaster Recovery Center and the Saudipedia encyclopedia in its next version.


Al-Maghlouth also signed an agreement with #Cisco to develop the Ministry's emergency and disaster call center and smart building infrastructure. This involves integrating AI techniques in developing infrastructure, equipping the Ministry's facilities with advanced smart solutions, and organizing technical workshops by the company to raise the efficiency of technical operations and enhance the Ministry's human capital.


The ministry also signed with the Chinese company eWTPA to provide training opportunities for local and international journalists. This, in turn, will offer full media support in Chinese by translating, broadcasting, and publishing news related to the Saudi media sector. The agreement also includes funding and arranging visits between the two sides to exchange knowledge and experiences in the fields of entrepreneurship and media.


UPDATE

#Amazon said Amazon Cloud Services (#AWS) plans to invest more than $5.3 billion (about 19.88 billion Saudi riyals) in Saudi Arabia where it will launch an AWS infrastructure network in 2026.



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