Saudi Arabia shows digital agility in addressing COVID-19 crisis

Saudi Arabia’s continued investments in digital infrastructure are paying off with the Kingdom readily shifting gears to the e-mode to sustain continuity and connectivity in what today is being called the ‘new normal’.

Zaki Khoury’s blog in the “World Bank Blogs” lauded the advanced digital capabilities of the Kingdom that have provided a solid foundation for key aspects of the COVID-19 emergency response, including continued access to various e-government services.

Saudi Arabia, he wrote, has leveraged the two decades of continued investment in modern digital infrastructure and robust digital government platforms to seamlessly ease into the e-mode.

The blog contended that, “With 91% of the population covered by mobile broadband 4G networks and 3 million homes connected to fixed broadband, social distancing was made easier. Ritual prayers became virtual, and online schooling quickly became the new normal.”

Khoury commended the Saudi Arabia’s government and telecom operators’ response to this massive demand for telecommunications and data by implementing several measures.

These included increasing speeds and data capacity, providing free services, opening spectrum, enhancing network management, facilitating remote learning and continuity of business services, and enabling integrated data sharing and mobile money transactions.

The blog said, the Communication and Information Telecommunications Commission (CITC) in partnership with the Ministry of ICT, has also acted on calls for changes in network configuration, use of supplementary technologies, and access to available government infrastructure and resources to provide the needed connectivity.

It also highlights that this investment in modern digital infrastructure has been part of a long-term plan articulated in Vision 2030, as the Kingdom continues to strengthen its digital infrastructure by deploying 5G networks and investing in 6,500 new towers, essential for the shorter radio wavelengths to provide effective coverage.