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Saudi Arabia's Journey Through Digitization

Digitization and a strong digital economy is the future.

Fifteen years ago in Saudi Arabia, access to the Internet and technology was limited to a few families. Fortunately, my family had dial-up Internet connection, my mother allowed us to use it one hour a day after we finished our homework.

At that time, we did not anticipate how the Internet and technology would be a crucial part of our daily lives, how it would create successful opportunities for women, and how it would hold the potential to transform a hobby into a business. Saudis under the age of 29 represent two-thirds of the Kingdom's population. This explains the interest in social media by Saudis who formed 59 per cent of the total population as active social media users in 2016.

Saudi Arabia is now aiming to decrease the dependence on oil and diversify the economy through the Saudi Vision 2030. One of the measures includes promoting a digital culture by exploiting the power of Internet and social media. As it has been seen in our society, a large number of Saudi women are now marketing their skills and abilities using social media platforms, allowing them to establish a successful business.

Social media is powerful enough to create business opportunities for aspiring entrereneurs. Twelve years ago, I used to visit Flickr, a website for photographers to post their pictures, to support my cousin who had an interest in photography. I came across a famous account owned by Afnan Albatel -- little did I know that this name would become fairly well known in just a short time. Albatel now has more than 6 million followers, has established an advertising agency and her own makeup line. Her business created several job opportunities for unemployed Saudi women in three large cities in the Kingdom.

Another skill that an increasing number of Saudi women are mastering and turning into a successful business is baking. I was at a bazaar seven years ago, and came across a booth selling a variety of cookies, like snickers, mars, and red velvet cake (not many shops offered such diverse cookie flavors at the time). Of course, I purchased a lot of them.

A while after that, I saw a picture on Instagram of that special red velvet cake. Dantella, the business, is now well known in the Eastern Province as they were the first home bakery to supply to coffee shops. The owners of Dantella started marketing their bakery in bazaars and Instagram with a budget of 200 SAR (US$53D). In 2015, the first branch of Dantella was opened in Dammam and Dhahran.

The mentioned examples demonstrate how Saudi women are making the most of digital services to form businesses that benefit the county's economy. Digitization and a strong digital economy is the future and in order for Saudi Arabia to achieve this vision, the government should invest in educational programs to further develop skills and talents of the youth. The education system should be modified to engage and teach citizens to become aware of digital services. Moreover, universities and schools should align their curriculums with Saudi Vision 2030 and create approaches to successfully achieve the vision and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit among the younger generation of Saudi Arabia.

By: Reem AlGhamdi, G(irls)20 Delegate, Saudi Arabia

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