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Abdullah Al-Swaha


Abdullah Al-Swaha

Minister of Communications and Technology, Saudi Arabia


Abdullah Al-Swaha was appointed Minister of Communications and Information Technology in 2017 after more than 15 years of experience in IT, entrepreneurship, and executive and digital consulting. He has held several positions in the public and private sectors. In the former, he was director-general of the Digital Transformation Office in charge of expediting the realization of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. In the private sector, he has served as CEO of Cisco Saudi Arabia.

The Minister of Communications and Technology discusses Saudi Arabia’s G20 agenda and the future of technology.

The whole notion that a healthcare crisis might trigger one of the largest economic crises known to man is not something new. If we look even pre COVID-19 and some of the G20 nations, the cost of healthcare as a percentage of their national GDP is anywhere between 10 and 15% with an upward trend. This can potentially bankrupt these economies, which is why under the Saudi G20 presidency, we are bringing back consensus on how we can tackle these biggest challenges and translate them into opportunities. Opportunities that we could realize in the 21st century for all by empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers. If we can go back on empowering people, we have the very unique opportunity with the convolution of connectivity, big data, and AI to democratize healthcare in such a way that we could empower every citizen on the face of earth to have early healthcare checking systems. Every smartphone ships today with a standard 4K camera, four-core CPU and GPU, a machine learning engine, and a neural engine. These capabilities will help us tackle things like type-2 diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of blindness. It is going to empower everybody to reach for their smartphones, take a photo of their retina, and have an early detection of signs of type-2 diabetes.

The convolution of big data and AI will disrupt everything we know today. If we move on to safeguarding the planet, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today is the global leader in thermal energy, and we have leveraged connectivity, big data, and AI to deliver one of the safest and cleanest upstream activities at ARAMCO. If we fast forward to our responsibility to move from thermal energy into green and sustainable and renewable energy with the future city of Neom, we are able to bring down the economics of green photons to green electrons to green hydrogen to such a feasible level that it will empower us to energize things that cannot be powered by the grid today. Neom is one of the top-three destinations in terms of our ability to convert wind and solar into green electrons with an electrolysis process with the Red Sea to deliver green energy at such an affordable rate it will help us accelerate green aviation and green maritime transportation because these things, until today, cannot be powered by a lithium battery.

If I talk about shaping new frontiers, I am pleased with the leadership of my colleagues in the Data and AI Authority, who have led the track successfully in which we drove consensus among the G20 nations to agree on the OECD principles for trustworthy AI. How AI can be inclusive by leaving no one behind, and how it can be for the good of humanity by being human centric with full transparency so that we know who is using and who owns the data, with robustness and security to make sure the next time we sit in an autonomous car, we expect it to function the way it should. If I talk about accountability, we need to make sure there is clear responsibility and accountability at the algorithm level, at the system level, at the data level, and at the data scientist level to ensure AI continues to be for the good of humanity.

If we look at these successes and the accomplishments of what my G20 peers have realized, I am fully confident that we are back on track to realizing the opportunities of the 21st century by being laser focused on empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers powered by connectivity, big data, and AI to help the world switch from survival mode to thriving mode.

*Sourced from a speech delivered at the Global AI Summit in October 2020 œ–



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