Saudi Arabia is using data-driven technology to improve the transparency of its government bodies, drawing from masses of publicly available information to assess their performance.
Fresh from Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to the UK, in which the leader met British prime minister Theresa May, the Queen, and blue chip business chiefs, his country is taking tech-enabled steps to transform transparency and efficiency. It is also offering the methodologies to other nations by making its tech tools open source.
As part of Vision 2030, a sweeping transformation plan for the country, the Saudi National Center for Performance Management (Adaa) has launched an open source tool called the International Performance Hub (IPH), which draws together information around 700 key performance indicators (KPIs).
Access to the IPH is being made freely available to anyone: from students and citizens in Saudi Arabia to the country’s policymakers.
The hub is essential to the success of the Vision 2030 plan, which counts among its chief aims the process of shifting Saudi Arabia away from a dependency on oil revenues and towards a future based on a diverse economy – with improved infrastructure, education, health and tourism industries. Saudi leaders recognise that to succeed in these ambitions they first need a clear and precise view of the day-to day functioning of the country, which can be compared with foreign counterparts.
Using the Adaa tool, Saudi Arabia’s government is able to identify areas most in need of improvement, and initiate work towards improving competitiveness and performance. Access to the IPH is being made freely available to anyone: from students and citizens in Saudi Arabia to the country’s policymakers.
Husameddin AlMadani, director general at Adaa, says organisations in Saudi Arabia can now accurately monitor performance to inform new changes. “Saudi Arabia is undertaking a major multi-year transformation. This platform is essential to help us achieve our ambitious Vision 2030 programme,” he explains. “We know that actions speak louder than words and this tool will help us track our performance against development goals.”
Additional aims of IPH include to advance global data analytics, and inform the debate around the positive use of information. Adaa hopes that other nations, as well as non-government organisations, will use its flagship tool to improve their own metrics and operations, and that they will also suggest additions and changes to its functionality.
The KPIs measured in IPH fall into 12 distinct categories, which are: education, energy, economy, finance, health, industry, infrastructure, labour, security, justice, social and technology.
The platform collects masses of data that can be used to create detailed ideas about individual nations, how they function economically and which of their industries are most dynamic and competitive internationally. The hub also gives users the option of performing deeper dives into specific issues such as youth literacy rates, access to healthcare or gender balances within major political bodies.
The scope of information available via the tool is both broad and deep. Questions that can be answered by IPH include everything from ‘Where can you start up a new business in less than a single day?’ (to which one answer is New Zealand), to, ‘What country has more than three mobile phone subscriptions for every one of its inhabitants?’ (to which the answer is Macao).
Users can also look up very detailed information and KPIs relating to specific nations and assess instantly their performance across the hub’s 12 headline categories. A simple search informs that in the UK, four in 10 of those employed have college, university or vocational education, while in China, 5.6% of GDP is spent on health. It also reminds that in Saudi Arabia, women now hold 20% of parliamentary seats, more than in the US – a change largely attributed to Saudi women recently being given the vote in local elections.
The IPH tool routinely extracts socioeconomic and financial data on over 300 countries worldwide, from reputable sources including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Microsoft and Dell EMC are among its technology collaborators, and nonprofit the Positive Economy Forum is a data and knowledge partner.
You’ve got to be open to innovation and collaboration, because the reality is that we don’t have all the answers
“We’ve sought to bring in the best expertise from both within and outside of Saudi Arabia. This has allowed us to benefit from a wide range of views and perspectives,” explains Mr AlMadani, whose own background is in developing advanced performance management at national oil business Saudi Aramco.
Mr AlMadani insists that diversity was imperative in putting together the IPH tool, the beta version of which was launched at the Davos Forum in January and was recently showcased in London. “We have sought to bring in the best expertise from both within and outside Saudi Arabia. This has allowed us to benefit from a wide range of views and perspectives,” he says. “Our staff are drawn from five different regions within Saudi Arabia, while nearly half of the executive team is female, and 40 to 50 percent of our staff are women.”
Noting that his team members are also drawn from both public and private sector backgrounds, the Adaa director general emphasises the importance of diverse collaboration for all governments. “You’ve got to be open to innovation and collaboration, because the reality is that we don’t have all the answers,” he says.
To use the IPH tool to improve transparency and performance in your government or non-government organisation, visit beta.iph.sa