In the past few years, the Saudi Arabian government faced with burgeoning population growth on one hand and rapid economic development on the other, has channeled billions of dollars towards development of the nation's infrastructure, most of which will be spent on upgrading the kingdom's transport and utilities networks. The 2013 budget earmarked $8 billion for building new roads, railways, and sea ports as well as for the rollout of infrastructure projects at new industrial cities such as Ras Al-Khair. These funds will also be used for ongoing road projects as well as airport expansion projects. The Wipro FTOB KSA report prepared in collaboration with IDC lists 6 major railway projects – passenger, freight and metro line – that will redefine the country’s travel and transport landscape between 2014 and 2020.
The government is currently carrying out multibillion dollar projects to prop up the crumbing airport infrastructure. It is expanding capacity in Riyadh's King Khaled International Airport and Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport. The construction of the new airport in the holy city of Madina is expected to be completed soon. Plans are on to build new airports, in Jazan, Abha and Al Qasim.
The face of the utilities sector is also fast changing. The kingdom has ambitious plans to develop the economy including large real estate investments and a new housing program, which will lead to increased use of energy. IDC reports that demand for energy is likely to grow by 65 percent through 2020. However, the country intends to shift from using oil and gas for power generation to alternate fuels in a big way. It has started the construction of a coal-fired power plant and thermal power plant to be finished in 2014, as well as earmarked funds to be spent on two nuclear reactors that will be operational by 2020. The country has also put forward an ambitious plan of building 16 nuclear reactors by 2032. What’s more, Saudi Arabia's total solar power capacity is expected to reach 110 MW by 2020 and the country plans to become a net exporter of solar power within the next 30 to 50 years.
Both the transport and utilities sectors will need heavy capital expenditure including significant investments in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The transportation sector will need to modernize their ICT systems for a unified view of operations, better situational awareness of key assets and resources, better collaboration with suppliers and stakeholders, superior customer experience, and compliance with IT security regulations. In the utilities sector, ICT can enable better operational efficiency and reduce costs, as well as support new initiatives like smart meter and smart grid projects.
The large scale investments in the infrastructure space are expected to provide significant advantages to the economy. Development in the area can lower the economy’s dependence on oil, rectify economic imbalances and create jobs. The country surely cannot afford to slow down on the infrastructure front nor can it overlook substandard work, as the recent flooding showed. Are infrastructure organizations and utilities keeping in mind that time and quality are of essence?