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Saudi Arabia needs to leverage its young digital-ready population so it can “jump” into the digital economy, according to a senior executive at Chinese tech company Huawei.

Speaking to Arab News, Safder Nazir, senior vice president of digital industries at Huawei Middle East, pointed out that the Kingdom’s young tech-savvy people hold the key to innovation.

According to the General Authority of Statistics of Saudi Arabia, 69% of the population is 35 years old or younger.

Nazir argued that while older generations “take a little longer” to get to groups with new technology, younger people don’t have such a reluctance.

“What you have in the kingdom is a great opportunity to leapfrog into the digital economy because it’s great to have the technologies, but unless people use them and are able to innovate using them and finding new ways to grow businesses and transform industries, then we won’t be able to deliver on the promise,” he said.

Other advantages of Saudi Arabia are its rapid adoption of 5G and its promotion of smart cities, supported by new technologies, Nazir said.

“We know that the Kingdom develops very mega projects, as well as the renovation or redevelopment of existing cities,” says Nazir.

“Digital infrastructure is what connects everything,” he adds.

With the development of artificial intelligence, the use cases are multiplying.

Nazir said, “We are hearing more about the knowledge cities, for example, NEOM itself as a knowledge city at the regional level. So that’s what drives a lot of topics around this. And from Huawei’s point of view, we break this down into several topics.

“What we call digital infrastructure is being able to sense everything and connect everything. So that’s where things like IOT (Internet of Things) come in, and then we have to be able to connect and transfer that data,” he said, adding, “That’s when all the different types of connectivity are introduced from 3G, 4G and of course 5G.”

Nazir believes Saudi Arabia is very well positioned with its rapid use of 5G as it will help advance the digital economy and then towards AI.

“All the data that comes into the cloud platform and with the use of AI and multiple types of algorithms, we can then do intelligent use cases,” he explained.

As an example, five years ago Huawei was talking about doing smart parking, using street sensors.

“But today we are rolling out smart parking, using video in the Kingdom. It’s computer vision. This is the kind of improvement we have seen over the past few years,” he added.

This type of innovation allows Huawei to show the breadth of its portfolio, from phones to 5G and fixed connectivity.

“By showing the use of AI, we will bring a Huawei cloud region to Saudi Arabia, as well as our enterprise business,” Nazir said.

This will result in the digital transformation of all industries, “from healthcare to airports, to the power grid, etc.,” he said.

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