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Next stop for Saudi Vision 2030: Training over 1,000 engineers in new AI programme

Saudi government-owned oil and gas company Saudi Aramco recently unveiled its first generative AI model, 'Aramco Metabrain AI', at the annual LEAP tech conference in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia will train hundreds of skilled engineers through a new artificial intelligence (AI) programme to boost its information technology (IT) sector.

The Kingdom’s “National Programme for Information Technology Development” (NPITD) has announced the launch of the initiative, AIM, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The programme will reportedly establish a comprehensive AI innovation system, including infrastructure and capacity building, cooperation with stakeholders like industries and governments to realise project development, while aligning with the goals of the “Saudi Vision 2030” economic diversification agenda.

As a part of this broader objective, more than 1,000 skilled engineers will be trained in machine learning and AI, apart from fostering innovation and supporting business ventures.

The initiative, in partnership with the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, will aim to create over 25 linguistic AI models, to cater to the needs of industries and governments.

Talking about SDAIA, it has already awarded certificates to over 1,900 women in advanced technologies, including courses like programming, data science, and AI. This initiative envisions women playing a crucial role in the Kingdom undertaking giant leaps across technical, artistic, and research domains.

“SDAIA’s efforts include quality programmes designed to align educational outcomes with labour market demands, ensuring Saudi talent meets the evolving needs of the industry. A notable initiative is the ‘Elevate Programme,’ launched in collaboration with Google Cloud. The programme’s first phase trained 796 women from 28 countries, aiming to enable women globally to pursue new careers in AI and machine learning, particularly in emerging markets. This initiative also contributes to the Kingdom’s efforts in supporting the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” the Saudi Gazette reported.

“The SDAIA Academy has conducted specialised programmes and camps where Saudi women have actively participated. These include the SDAIA 5T programme focusing on data science and AI, data management, data governance, machine learning, and large linguistic models, with women’s participation reaching 60%,” it reported further.

These developments come at a time when analysts (including global consultancy PwC) are expecting AI to contribute more than USD 135 billion to the Saudi economy in 2030, equivalent to 12.4% of the Kingdom’s GDP.

Aramco Unveils Its First Generative AI Model

Meanwhile, Saudi government-owned oil and gas company Saudi Aramco recently unveiled its first generative AI (GenAI) model, “Aramco Metabrain AI”, at the annual LEAP tech conference in Riyadh.

Touted as a “pioneering technology in the industrial sector,” Aramco’s AI model has 250 billion parameters that can be adjusted during training to generate outputs/make predictions. As per the reports, the AI model has been trained using seven trillion data points, collecting details involving over 90 years of the energy company’s history.

Amin H Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, informed the media that the AI model would analyse drilling plans, geological data, historic drilling time and costs as well as recommend the most ideal well options.

Nasser announced that for the company’s downstream business, “Metabrain will have the capability to provide precise forecasts for refined products, including pricing trends, market dynamics and geopolitical insights”.

Aramco plans to develop a version with 1 trillion parameters by the 2024 end.

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