Rachel Ziemba, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, says: “Saudi Arabia has a lot of ambitions. But as we’ve seen around the world, it’s hard to recreate an ecosystem like [California’s] Silicon Valley. Part of that has to do with getting the academic, business and governance support right.”
The kingdom will also have to decide in which areas it can innovate and compete at a global level, and in which it cannot.
“Where will they be in the supply chain of the tech industry to move away from being large consumers of IT products, software and data clouds,” says Ziemba, “and actually make it themselves?”
“An issue facing any jurisdiction developing IT right now is: ‘Do they use Chinese or US software, hardware, networks, and components?'” says Ziemba.
“If they use Chinese tech, at what point do they run the risk of restrictions from the US and pressure around say Huawei components and networks? A lot of Gulf countries have faced question marks on how to navigate Chinese-US tech competition for years, and this is still a factor.”
“Saudi Arabia is operating in a kind of work-with-anyone way,” says Ziemba, “but down the line it might be difficult to adopt technologies in partnership with all the prevailing producers. We are especially seeing the US look to using export controls as a more meaningful tool of economic coercion and foreign policy.”
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