In conversation with CST on the value of the ICT Indicator Forum


June 2, 2023

5 Min Read
In conversation with CST on the value of the ICT Indicator Forum
PW1T99 Businessperson Shaking Hand With Digital Partner Over Futuristic Background

In its 9th edition, the ICT Indicators Forum 2023 investigated topics related to digital regulation, opportunities to scale businesses in digital economy, and the ICT sector’s future trends.

The forum plays a key role as an enabler for collaboration and participation in the industry in Saudi Arabia. The ICT market size in the country is now the largest in the MENA region, having reached $40.9 billion in 2022. Attended by leaders and experts from across the Saudi ICT landscape including telecom CEOs, the annual event also marks the launch of the second Saudi Internet Report.

In this article, speaking to Omar Al-Rejraje, Deputy Governor for Regulation and Competition, we aim to find out more about the key takeaways from the event and the achievements of the Saudi ICT sector over the past year. We also set out to investigate the role of the event as an enabler for cross-sectoral cooperation. Finally, we discuss the impacts of digital infrastructure on internet users in Saudi Arabia.

What are the contributing factors towards the impressive growth of Saudi Arabia’s ICT market to $40.9 billion?

The growth of Saudi Arabia’s ICT market to the largest in the MENA region is largely the product of the Kingdom’s sweeping digital transformation enablement efforts, aligned with Vision 2030.

This includes the adoption of a collaborative digital regulatory approach by government agencies such as Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST), which works closely with partners in the public and private sectors to implement best practices that consider the interests of all stakeholders and thereby ensure growth.

Through these wide-ranging measures to support the expansion and growth of the Kingdom’s digital economy, the Kingdom has made clear its intention to incubate a flexible environment that balances innovation and regulation that supports entrepreneurs and innovators in a rapidly expanding digital market.

What were the key takeaways from the event?

Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation enablement efforts and collaborative digital regulatory approach are yielding remarkable results. An increase in total capital investment in digital infrastructure has led to a significant improvement in the quality of digital services on offer.

The CST held the first-of-its kind auction across the 2100 MHz band frequencies in 2022 allowing the provision of mobile satellite services (MSS), internet on airplane (A2G), and internet of things via satellite (MSS-IoT).

Saudi Arabia is among the top 10 countries for mobile internet speeds. The Kingdom’s 5G coverage rate is more than double the global average. Average per capita consumption of mobile internet data exceeds the global average by 36 percentage points. The average per capita consumption of mobile internet data is three times the average global.

2022 saw a significant ICT market repositioning through a rise in company acquisitions and sizeable mergers of digital infrastructure. All telecoms companies listed in the financial market achieved operating and net profits for the first time since 2009.

What role does this annual event play in enabling cross-sectoral cooperation in the digital economy?

Held under the patronage of the Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Chairman of the CST, H.E. Eng. Abdullah Alswaha, the forum unites leaders and experts from across Saudi Arabia’s ICT landscape.

The forum is attended by high-level guests of Ministers, Excellencies, the CEOs of major ICT and telecom companies in the Kingdom, and delegations of national and international ICT experts.

Three key dialogue sessions saw participation from the private and public sectors and were held under the themes ICT Sector Financial Performance; Scaling Digital Business to support the Digital Aspirations of Saudi Arabia; and Leadership in Enhancing the Efficiency of Digital Infrastructure.

Discussions saw particular focus on the Kingdom’s participatory approach to digital regulation, announced in 2021, which aims to integrate the concerns and priorities of government agencies, regulatory bodies, and private sector players across all regulatory processes.

This strategy ensures the highest level of coordination and cooperation between stakeholders across Saudi’s digital landscape.

What is the purpose of the Saudi Internet Report and what does it show?

The Saudi Internet Report 2022, which was released at the ICT Indicators Forum 2023, provides the most accurate statistics on the internet system and its usage in Saudi Arabia. It also tracks the Kingdom’s level of infrastructure development, with the aim of enhancing digital services, attracting technical investments, and contributing to the development of a thriving digital economy.

The report revealed remarkable progress across digital infrastructure and internet usage on the back of successful government and private sector cooperation, including:

  • SAR93 billion in total capital investment in digital infrastructure over the last six years

  • 53% 5G coverage rate across the Kingdom

  • 94% 5G coverage in Riyadh

  • 181 Mbps average speed of mobile internet in the Kingdom

  • 3 billion in transactions in ICT sector in 2022

  • 10% improvement in HHI index of fixed communications year-on-year

How has the development of digital infrastructure across the Kingdom influenced the consumption and behaviour of internet users in Saudi?

An acceleration in the penetration of digital infrastructure and services is echoed in the behaviour of internet users, with an increase in mobile cellular communications subscriptions to 172% of the population. 98.6% of the Saudi population are now internet users.

Total internet traffic in the Kingdom increased to 35 million terabytes, a 17% increase from 2021, while 49.4% of internet users spend 7 hours or more each day browsing the internet, making Saturday one of the busiest days of the week.

The average per capita consumption of mobile internet data in the Kingdom exceeded 1200 MB per day and 37 GB per month in 2022, while 28% of people use an “unlimited” internet package on their mobile device.

The most downloaded e-government in 2022 was the Tawakkalna Services application, while Madrasati was the most used educational application and Nusuk the most downloaded application for travel.

About the Author(s)

Get the latest news straight to your inbox.
Register for the newsletter here.

You May Also Like