Abdullah Alswaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Saudi Arabia, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Riyadh at the start of 2022. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia is “doubling down” on talent in the country’s industrial metaverse, the Kingdom’s Communications Minister Abdullah Alswaha said during the WEF at Davos on Thursday.

“We’re doubling down on talent and technology in the industrial metaverse,” the minister said on the panel that looked how the metaverse – a digital reality that puts physical and virtual experiences in a digital environment – can be used to further industrial advancements such as the healthcare sector.

The Kingdom is currently using the metaverse to help develop its futuristic city NEOM and in 2022 NEOM Tech & Digital Company subsidiary Tonomus which has invested $1 billion in products including a digital twin metaverse – a 3D virtual space where people involved in the project could see how it looks in the future.

“I’m a big advocate of the metaverse,” said AlSwaha at the panel, adding that it will be the next wave of technology adding value to industries.

With NEOM and the Red Sea Project, the Saudi Crown Prince had reportedly asked for a digital twin of the build, design and optimization phases ahead of the start of development, the minister said during the same panel, signifying the importance of the metaverse.

Alswaha also highlighted the increase in the number of women working in tech in the country, including in metaverse projects.

“I would argue that this is the most audacious women empowerment and inclusion story in the 21st century,” he said.

The participation rate of females in the tech sector stood at 28 percent in the third quarter of 2021, above the European average rate of 17.5 percent, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information said in April last year.

“We have jumped from 7 percent women empowerment in tech and stem to 32 percent, surpassing the EU, G20 and even the Silicon Valley average,” he said.

He continued: “It’s not a surprise that in terms of women founders, the Kingdom today globally ranks number one.”

Other projects in Saudi Arabia that have involved the metaverse include a virtual philanthropy center in the metaverse launched by the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal launched in November 2022.

The Kingdom also announced in September last year that a virtual celebration for Saudi Arabia’s National Day was to be held on a Metaverse platform for the first time ever.

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