By Rayan AbdulJabbar, Saudi student at ENPC School of International Management
When you think of Saudi Arabia, you think of oil.
It is true that Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading producers of oil, but Saudi Arabia has also begun to establish smart cities and is becoming technologically advanced. I can tell you first hand that Saudi Arabia is changing – building Greenfield Smart Cities which are expected to create more than 1 million jobs and a new standard of living for Saudi citizens.
As a Saudi citizen studying at ENPC School of International Management, I have enjoyed the opportunity to join Alcatel-Lucent’s Market and Consumer Insight’s research of smart city citizens in support of my MBA program. After reading Debbie Fisher’s blogs about Chattanooga and Zurich, I knew I could bring equally exciting insights from Saudi citizens and stakeholders by being part of this team. And as I work to complete my MBA this month, I thought I’d take time out to share some of the ideas that I’ll be highlighting in my project report.
Being an MBA student and a Saudi citizen helped me gain access to developers and other stakeholders as well as citizens in and around the cities of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) and King Abdullah University Science & Technology (KAUST). One of the most striking differences smart city citizens recognized was a significant improvement to their basic way of life. KAUST citizens understand that they enjoy services not available to many Saudis. In KAEC, water, electricity, sewage, telephone and television services are available to all citizens, given the fact that the infrastructure systems were built with the latest technology. Citizens still recall the common, daily issues they had with lack of sewage systems and community regulations, which they experienced while living in established cities that were built during the construction boom. Now, they are learning new values. This was best stated by a KAUST resident, “You learn new things while you [are] here, getting in [the] habit of recycling, caring for your environment, caring [about] your neighbors.”
And what did I learn from the developers and stakeholders investing millions to build these Greenfield cities? I learned that they are looking not at short-term goals, but at creating long-term, sustainable economic development, which would diversify the entire Saudi Arabian economy and build a knowledge-based economy that would serve as a role model for the rest of Saudi Arabia. With thousands of young Saudis, including myself, now studying abroad, these smart city developers are striving to attract these talented, well-educated young Saudis back home to help with the nation’s transformation. They are seeking out the best practices from smart cities across the globe to ensure that they are preparing for long-term economic prosperity and building a knowledge-based economy that fosters innovation. Fully integrated infrastructure, 100% e-services, a cashless environment, cloud services; these were some of the goals I heard expressed for KAUST. Connectivity and communication services are critical. And sometimes they must count on skills outside of the country.
But as these smart cities continue to offer a better way of life, developers look forward to new vibrant, diverse communities that deliver a sustainable economy for my native Saudi Arabia.
Expected to be completed in 2020, the king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulla, had the vision to work toward a complete new face of Saudi that would allow citizens to adapt to 21st century urban living. Moreover, it is expected that smart cities would create a culture of change in the rest of Saudi, which would benefit the intellectual environment of Saudi citizens for generations to come.
I am excited to return to Saudi Arabia and be part of this smart city phenomenon. But before I move back, watch for my analysis of the smart cities of KAEC and KAUST – coming soon in collaboration with my mentors at Alcatel-Lucent’s Market and Consumer Insight group.
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