In a major contract with the oil rich government, Saudi Arabia selects IBM to develop blockchain for the Municipality of its capital city Riyadh, integrating both government and commercial services for its citizens and residents.
IBM have been instructed to work closely with Elm Company, the municipality’s technology partner. IBM Saudi Arabia general manager Tarek Zarg El Aioun stated:
Through the collaboration between Riyadh Municipality, Elm and IBM, we will be able to help the Saudi government reimagine and transform the way in which services are provided to citizens, residents, businesses, and visitors.
Together they will develop a strategy to implement blockchain technology for a variety of government services, within the 15 municipal districts managed by the Riyadh Municipality, serving a population of seven million people.
Initially IBM and Elm, together with the city administration, will setup workshops within key government departments and private and semi-government sectors, determining how and where blockchain can be implemented.
Under the terms of the partnership, IBM will then design the first blockchain-based solution within the municipality, and in phase two Elm Company will take charge of integrating the technology into government departments and citizens services.
Secretary of Al Riyadh Region, Tariq bin Abdul Aziz Al-Fares expressed optimism about the new partnership, stating:
“this move comes in accordance with the directives of the Saudi Government to work towards enhancing the quality of municipal services for customers and to incorporate latest technological innovations…in line with Saudi Vision 2030.”
The Saudi Vision 2030 program was a plan devised for the country by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in 2016, and is focused on diversifying the economy, reducing the country’s dependence on oil revenue, and growing their investment capabilities.
Blockchain technology is greatly favoured by the Kingdom due to its ability to swiftly assist in the expansion of digital services, whilst also increasing transparency within its bureaucratic system.
IBM is fast becoming the ‘go to’ blockchain consultant for both governments and big industry players, with recent contracts that include Australia’s government and the U.S. incorporation state of Delaware. IBM’s El Aioun stated:
“Blockchain is a revolutionary way to do business and IBM is in the forefront of it”
Saudi Arabia has been actively experimenting with blockchain and other leaders in the arena. In February, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) became the first central bank in the world to join Ripple’s enterprise blockchain network RippleNet.
SAMA plans to conduct a large-scale blockchain pilot that will include a number of banks within the country, utilising ledger technology to enable real-time retail money transfers, with end-to-end tracking of instant settlements.
Furthermore, the country’s IT and communications ministry recently partnered with ConsenSys to host a ‘blockchain bootcamp’, where businesses and other entities were taught how to build decentralised applications (dApps) with Ethereum smart contracts and integrate the dApps with web applications.