Saudi Arabia’s government is looking at ambitious plans to extend Internet access to all areas of the Kingdom by setting up a fund enabling Internet service providers (ISPs) to share the cost of the project.
The Saudi government has already invested US$800million in developing e-Government services and has a target to put 150 services online by 2010. To ensure all citizens can access these from anywhere in the Kingdom, it is looking at working with ISPs to help provide services in more remote and less profitable areas. Fahad Al Hoymany, Minister’s advisor for IT and head of the e-Government infrastructure department at the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), revealed that the government was currently in talks with service providers over proposals for them to share the costs of providing services to some areas. One of the obstacles that the Saudi Government could face in establishing e-Government across the country is that Internet penetration across the Kingdom is very low. According to Al Hoymany, currently just 13 to 15percent of the population actually use the Internet. In the United Nations’ Global e-Government Readiness Report 2005, Saudi was ranked 80th out of the UN’s 191 member.