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The second edition of Saudi Arabia’s annual technology conference LEAP, which ran in Riyadh from February 6-9, 2023, announced a series of investments totaling over US$9 billion to enhance Saudi Arabia’s position as the largest digital market in the MENA region.
H.E. Eng. Abdullah Alswaha, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology announced most of these investments on the first day of the four-day event, and it included Microsoft’s $2.1 billion to establish in a global super-scaler cloud in the Kingdom, Oracle’s $1.5 billion to expand its MENA business by launching new cloud areas in Saudi Arabia, Huawei’s $400 million in cloud infrastructure for its services in the Kingdom, and the launch of a Zoom cloud area in the Kingdom, in partnership with Aramco. An additional $4.5 billion was also invested in global and local assets across multiple sectors at the event.
Other major announcements on the first day of LEAP 2023 included Meta announcing the opening of the first Metaverse Academy in the MENA in Saudi Arabia, the launches of multi-content social media app Hektar by WEO Technology and Camel Lab, as well as of Beem, a new application for instant messaging, high-quality voice and video calls, and business features developed by MENA Communication and STC. On the second day of the event, Ignite, a program under Saudi Arabia’s Digital Content Council, launched a package of financing programs and private sector partnerships amounting to $170 million. Also, India-headquartered technology consulting services firm Wipro said that it would be investing $110 million to expand its cloud studio service, develop digital healthcare solutions, and support the development of local talent in the Kingdom.
Another India-headquartered firm Zoho, an information technology, software development, and cloud computing company, confirmed an allocation of $300 million over the next 10 years as a portfolio balance to support Saudi startups aiding the country’s digital transformation. Zoho also outlined plans to expand its presence in the Kingdom by establishing new offices, as well as a cloud area for its services. Emirati property development company Damac Group, which first endeavored into the world of data centers in 2021 by launching projects in Europe, also announced the expansion of its investments in large Saudi Arabia-based data centers, which have a total capacity of over 55 megawatts.
These investment announcements were accompanied by news that US-based cross-platform game engine Unity would be launching its first regional academy as well as a center for developing electronic games, in partnership with the Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), to empower homegrown talent. Global e-commerce platform Amazon also announced the establishment of its first regional academy to develop and train more than 30,000 people in Saudi Arabia, with it expected to provide more than 35,000 professional certificates in the fields of cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
Amazon’s academy comes as part of a national partnership with MCIT that encompasses the Ministry’s Future Skills initiative, which has been affiliated with the Saudi Digital Academy, Human Capacity Development Program, and Tuwaiq Academy. An annual event that brings together the world’s most important tech experts, LEAP attracted more than 250,000 visitors from around the world this year. Saudi Arabia continues its leadership as the MENA region’s largest digital market, with more than $42 billion in active investments. Indeed, across Saudi Arabia, more than 340,000 people currently work in the digital, telecommunications, and information technology sectors.
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