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SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Mohammad Alkhalil

Director, Digital Enablement, NDU

Bio

Mohammad Alkhalil graduated from Qassim University with a bachelor degree in management information systems. He worked at the Saudi Tourism Authority for six years on various applications such as the Saudi Handicrafts Program Portal and the Craftsman National Registry. He has also worked with the Tayseer Committee with government entities on the National Process Reengineering Initiative to enhance the Kingdom’s results in the ease of doing business index. He later joined the National Digital Transformation Unit in 2019 as digital transformation lead and is currently the Director of Digital Enablement.

"Digital Enablement within NDU, launched two years ago, aims to provide support, guidance, and customer relations to government entities within Vision 2030."
The Digital Enablement department oversees the digital transformation of various domains, from building digital transformation strategies to introducing emerging technology applications in the Kingdom and increasing the contribution to the digital economy.
Can you outline the mandate of Digital Enablement?

Digital Enablement within NDU, launched two years ago, aims to provide support, guidance, and customer relations to government entities within Vision 2030. It aids, at a strategic level, those entities from different sectors in setting their digital-transformation goals and building a roadmap toward their digital transformation. For example, as a digital enablement team, we started the enablement of the e-commerce sector in KSA on multiple levels. In addition, we have outlined the digital transformation objectives and strategies within the health and education sectors successfully. Moreover, as a team, we engage with government entities constantly, guiding their adaption of traditional business models to their digital-transformation objectives by introducing related tech-enabled business models. How-to execute initiatives, and emerging technologies that may resolve obstacles and challenges the different sectors are facing, or identify opportunities to utilize existing technological solutions to reduce costs and improve performance. Digital enablement efforts aim to support Vision 2030 and realize sector-related programs by building delivery plans and executing initiatives hand-in-hand with the different sectors across the kingdom.

How do you categorize the government agencies’ progress on this digital journey?

We categorize the government entities we work with based on their digital maturity and our current prioritization. The current priority sectors are digital health, digital education, e-commerce, tourism and culture, haj and umrah, and Industry 4.0. For example, one of the most advanced government entities in its digital journey is the Ministry of Health. We had a minister with an IT background who was familiar with the digital and IT ecosystems. He started working on introducing digital health solutions and digital infrastructure and bringing hospitals and health entities into the system. He also integrated different IT systems and ensured governmental investment was directed at one goal: serving patients and sustaining high-quality systems to rationalize the government’s expenditure on the ICT budgets. The Ministry of Health developed verified health records and started to introduce remote patient care, virtual hospitals, and remote clinics. Saudi Arabia was investing in digital transformation even before the pandemic. We also had an integrated infrastructure for communication, and during the pandemic, we were able to capitalize on our earlier investments in capacity development and utilization and adapt on the patients’ side with virtual clinics and telemedicine.

How are you reorienting your strategy to make the most of the post-pandemic era and achieve the goals of Vision 2030?

In terms of Vision 2030, pre-COVID, the Digital Enablement team was in constant communication with all Vision Realization Programs to review, support, and approve all digital related initiatives. This, in addition to reviewing sectoral strategies, allowed us to have a holistic view of most digital initiatives. Additionally, COVID-19 allowed us to achieve our KPIs and milestones in just one year. We have already started planning new KPIs based on our achievements during the pandemic and our holistic view of national initiatives. We have multiple investments in platforms, infrastructures, and digital services to make the user experience seamless, eliminating the duplication of government entities’ efforts and reducing expenditures. As a digital enablement team, we worked day and night to invest in multiple digital-transformation initiatives and solutions. What comes next is looking at new trends in the priority sectors, introducing more advanced solutions, and working towards how we can adapt them, in addition to increasing the contribution to the digital economy.

What is your vision for Digital Enablement five years from now?

We want to keep introducing new business models, which include innovative emerging technologies and trends related to our priority sectors. The vision is to adopt these business models by related government entities, taking into consideration allowing the private sector to thrive through participation in the government sector. Our current focus in the next stage is digital economy and ensuring government participation and activating all relative policies. We cannot specifically share a vision for the next five years, as we are agile and rapidly adapting to new technological trends and opportunities.

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