In its quest to diversify its economy, attract foreign investment and tackle unemployment, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) embarked on developing four new ‘˜economic cities’ under the principles of smart city planning. The new cities are overseen by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), a governmental agency established in 2000 to act as a gateway to investment in the KSA. Knowledge Economic City (KEC) is another one of the four intelligent cities to be developed in the KSA. KEC is located just outside the holy city of Medinah, serving as an alternative Central Business District for the existing city. It spans an area of 4.8 km ², expected to host a population of 200,000 people. The venture’ s vision is to ‘˜attract Muslims from around the world’ , focusing on knowledge-based industries, tourism and services. The development cost is approximately $7 billion. The land for the development was provided by the King Abdullah Foundation. The project is being developed by Knowledge Economic City Developers, a consortium of companies established for this purpose. On the governmental side, the Economic Cities Authority is the prime development facilitator; it acts as the one-stop Government servicing centre for the development of KEC. In matters of smart city infrastructure, CISCO will undertake the design and implementation of the network infrastructure and connected city services; the city will be wired with high-speed broadband infrastructure, while all urban operations will be managed through Integrated Operations’ Centers, meant to act as the ‘˜brain of the city’ . The masterplan includes a complex for technology and knowledge-based economy, technological and administrative colleges, an Islamic Civilization Studies Centre, a Campus for medical studies, biological sciences and health services, a business center, a commercial plaza and residential areas. The project started in 2006 and was initially expected to be complete in 2020 (now extended to 2025). Some parts are currently under development.
Figure: Model of Knowledge Economic City (source)
Figure: Construction on the site (source)
Access the website of Knowledge Economic City here.
Suggested readings about Knowledge Economic City:
- Komninos, N. (2014). The Age of Intelligent Cities: Smart Environments and Innovation-for-all Strategies. Routledge. Available here.
- Whitaker, G. (2010). Madinah economic city site work set to begin. Available here.
- Whitaker, G. (2010). Dialogue: Madinah Knowledge Economic City. Available here.