Saudi Arabia announces national plan to stimulate urban policies by 2025

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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to stimulate urban policies to ensure coordinated services for residents by 2025 as part of its efforts to boost quality of life, says top minister. 

Speaking during the opening remarks of the first Global Smart City Forum held in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, announced that this will come as Saudi Arabia is set to build a national model named the Digital Twin.

The minister underscored the significance of Vision 2030 as a transformative journey for Saudi Arabia, emphasizing its role in instilling passion, hope, and ambition among citizens and outlining its strategy for urban development.

 We also continue, with great ambition, to build one of the most prominent national applications and models, the Digital Twin, which is transforming the way we plan and operate our cities,” Al-Hogail said.

He continued: “By 2025, we will be able to simulate the impact of our urban policies, plan for emergencies and disasters, and connect more agencies and residents in the joint design of cities with us.”

The minister described the progress made by Saudi cities in the field of smart technology and urban development, saying: “Our goal is for at least 10 Saudi cities to be among the top 50 global cities by achieving the factors of governance, sustainability, and interaction with the population, meeting their aspirations, and achieving high prosperity for them.” 

He added: “Last year, four of our vibrant cities were classified within the Smart Cities Index. This exceptional journey toward transformation has enabled us to benefit from technology, artificial intelligence and data to make a real and tangible impact in municipalities.”

Showcasing an example of utilizing technology to improve city services and infrastructure, Al-Hogail stated that in Jeddah a waste management solution was developed using emerging technical innovations such as the Internet of Things to plan and monitor operations effectively.

“The result is that we reduced violations related to waste and hygiene by 25 percent to reach a cleaner city to avoid the disruption of residents resulting from the movements of cleaning crews in Dammam on the Arabian Gulf coast,” he said.

The minister continued: “We have provided an application that manages more than 20,000 parking spaces, through which access to the most crowded areas has been facilitated to achieve a seamless experience for residents to find available parking spaces.”

Additionally, Saudi Arabia reduced traffic congestion on the roads leading to major conference venues in Riyadh by 36 percent last year, compared to 2022, according to Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, president of the Saudi Data and AI Authority.

During the opening remarks, Al-Ghamdi underlined that this is driven by the government’s effort to utilize the national smart city platform.

“We gather today and tomorrow to achieve three main objectives and vision sustainable smart cities of the future, enhance governance, smart city initiatives globally for the government, stimulate businesses to invest in building smart solutions,” Al-Ghamdi stated.

Adding: “In the year 2023, the combined efforts of the government entities utilizing smart city has contributed to a 36% reduction in traffic congestion of the roads network leading to the venue of a major conference in Riyadh, in comparison with the 2022.”

He also noted that algorithms and models were developed to detect visual pollution in streets using weekly footage of the Kingdom’s main cities.

This initiative, which was undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Municipality, aimed to sustain urban scenery and improve the overall quality of life.

“During the last Hajj season, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, we supported traffic and cloud management in one of the world’s most challenging event scenarios with several advanced analytics and AI solutions,” Al-Ghamdi said.

“This resulted in reducing the waiting time at the entrance gate of Makkah region significantly,” he continued.

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