Being the world’s largest petroleum exporter that contributes much of the country’s GDP, recent drop in the price of oil barrels and other social factors have increased economic pressure and uncertainty in Saudi Arabia. These are one of the reasons behind Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s decision to move from an oil-based economy to a more human-capital based, thus entering a post-oil era and looking for alternative solutions.
Digital transformation and mega-cities are two huge opportunities to drive Saudi’s future economic growth. As part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the country has implemented various infrastructure programs to bring digitalization further. Over the past few years, internet speed has seen a quadrupled increase, and 4G LTE coverage has nearly doubled. The ultimate goal is to provide broadband access across Saudi Arabia, and so far the country has made considerable progress.
Technology in the country is also fast evolving with the newest application of artificial intelligence being a focal point in the Kingdom’s development. Saudi’s Neom, an investment worth $500 billion, represents the forefront of the smart-city with the first phase due for completion next year. The mega-city will be completely alimented by renewable energy sources, free broadband internet connection, and driverless transportation. Construction will use cutting edge technologies to model and plan parts to reduce waste and increase productivity.
Smart mobility, big data and artificial intelligence are just some of the key features Neom will offer. Aside from that, entertainment centres, technology and commercial hubs are expected to attract global visitors from all over the world. The area designated for the Neom project also presents excellent opportunities for leisure tourism, as it combines the Red Sea, beautiful beaches and islands, all set in a scenic outdoor setting.
The planned megacity has been financed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s government, the sovereign wealth fund, as well as local and international investors. It will be equipped with a number of facilities which will start to open at Neom by end of this year. While all the facilities have yet to be unveiled, the city is said to have its own private airport open for commercial flights as early as the end of 2019.