How PIF is boosting Saudi Arabia’s global ambitions to be a leader in AI

Global Insights
12 September 2022 Riyadh, KSA
  • PIF’s portfolio companies are supporting Saudi Arabia’s goals in artificial intelligence and data
  • AI plays a crucial role in Saudi Vision 2030, optimizing businesses and unlocking sectors
  • As a headline sponsor of the Global AI Summit, PIF is helping to bring the world together
Artificial intelligence is playing a crucial role in the digital transformation of all sectors of human activity, from economic mobility, human capability development, healthcare, transportation and smart cities, energy, environment, culture and more.
As a catalyst for Saudi Vision 2030, the country’s transformational roadmap, PIF is creating new opportunities throughout the nation by increasing local content, empowering a thriving private sector and improving life. In doing so, PIF is supporting Saudi Arabia’s aims to be a leader in deploying AI technology.
“AI has a crucial role in Saudi Arabia’s nationwide roadmap, Vision 2030, both in optimizing existing businesses and unlocking entirely new sectors,” Shahd Attar, PIF’s Head of Technology and Media Investments in the MENA Investment Division, tells PIF Global Insights ahead of the second edition of the Global AI Summit, which returns to Riyadh from 13-15 September.  
“What’s more, PIF is supporting Saudi Arabia’s aim to become a globally competitive hub in technology, media and telecoms.” 
Many of PIF’s portfolio and invested companies are integrating AI-powered, data-driven systems so that they work smarter, have an increased competitive edge and operate at reduced costs, notes Attar. These include Riyad Bank, which led the way in introducing Saudi Arabia to the benefits of contactless payments, has a 24/7 virtual assistant, and invests heavily in digital transformation programs. Others include Lean, whose APIs are enabling companies to launch cutting-edge financial products in the region, and ACWA Power, which is utilizing AI and machine learning to optimize its power generation, water desalination and green hydrogen plants.
Ayman AlRashed, CEO at the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI), attests that PIF-owned SCAI is enabling the ecosystem to shape the future of AI through best-in-class partnerships, targeted investments and strategic capabilities addressing market gaps globally. 
“Our partnership with Saudi Telecom Company (stc), for example, is developing innovative technologies and building Saudi talent in AI,” says AlRashed. “We’re also collaborating with other strategic partners like Aramco, Tahakom, Lean and Alibaba to grow the AI ecosystem in the country.”
In line with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is investing $6.4 billion in future technologies. “We’re very proud of our e-commerce, gaming, digital, content and cloud growth,” says Attar.
To facilitate the adoption of AI throughout the country and support the Vision 2030 goals, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) was established by royal decree in 2019. It aims to position Saudi Arabia as one of the top 10 countries in data and AI by 2030, and is training 25,000 data and AI specialists.
Hosted under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, and Chairman of PIF, the upcoming Global AI Summit is organized by SDAIA, with PIF as a main sponsor. 
The summit supports the national AI strategy, AlRashed says: “The goal is to unlock the potential of data and AI to fulfill our national transformation priorities and establish Saudi Arabia as a global hub for data and AI.”
The summit will engage international policymakers, investors, policy thought leaders and innovators, with the aim of sparking a global movement and building the future of AI for humanity. “PIF is helping to bring the world together,” says Attar, “to form a united framework on the future of AI.” 
Attar will participate in the Global AI Summit panel session titled “Investing in AI: From Startups and Venture Funds to Corporate Innovation” on September 14. She will be joined by Dr. Hans-Paul Bürkner, Managing Director and Global Chair, Emeritus Boston Consulting Group; Rajeev Misra, CEO, SoftBank Investment Advisors UK; Anna Patterson, Managing Partner, Gradient Ventures; and Mohamed Alabbar, Founder of Emaar and