Saudi Arabia Aims to Become a Global Leader in Artificial Intelligence

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has announced its ambition to make the kingdom a hub for artificial intelligence (AI) activity outside the United States. The fund’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, said that the country had the energy resources, the funding capacity, and the political will to support the development of AI technology.

Speaking at a Miami investment event sponsored by the sovereign wealth fund, Al-Rumayyan said that Saudi Arabia was well positioned to be an AI hub outside the US, as it had several advantages, such as:

  • The energy resources: AI technology requires a lot of energy, and Saudi Arabia is the global leader in both fossil fuel and renewable energy. The country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, and it is also investing heavily in solar and wind power projects.
  • The funding capacity: AI technology requires a lot of capital, and Saudi Arabia has one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. The PIF has assets worth about $400 billion, and it plans to increase that to $1 trillion by 2025. The fund is also allocating more than 70% of its investments to projects inside Saudi Arabia, and 20% to 25% to international projects, mainly in the US.
  • The political will: AI technology requires a lot of support and cooperation from the government, and Saudi Arabia has the vision and the determination to make AI projects happen. The country has launched several initiatives to diversify its economy, create jobs, and foster innovation, such as Vision 2030, the National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence, and the NEOM smart city project.

The challenges and the opportunities for AI in Saudi Arabia

However, Al-Rumayyan also acknowledged that Saudi Arabia faced some challenges and opportunities in its quest to become a global leader in AI, such as:

  • The talent gap: AI technology requires a lot of skilled and qualified human resources, and Saudi Arabia has a shortage of local talent in this field. The country has been trying to address this issue by investing in education, training, and research, as well as attracting foreign talent and companies to work in the kingdom.
  • The ethical and social implications: AI technology has a lot of potential benefits, but also a lot of risks and challenges, such as privacy, security, bias, and accountability. Saudi Arabia has been trying to balance the development of AI with the respect for human rights, values, and culture, as well as the adherence to Islamic principles and laws.
  • The regional and global competition: AI technology is a highly competitive and fast-changing field, and Saudi Arabia has to compete with other countries and regions that are also investing and innovating in this domain, such as China, Europe, and India. Saudi Arabia has been trying to collaborate and partner with other stakeholders, such as universities, corporations, and international organizations, to share best practices and learn from each other.

The PIF’s announcement signals that data centers may be a core part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to capitalize on the booming demand for generative AI technology, which uses clusters of thousands of chips in massive data centers to train algorithms to complete tasks. The fund’s governor said that the PIF was deploying about $40 billion to $50 billion annually, and would increase that to $70 billion a year between 2025 and 2030.

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