Science & Technology Zoom connects with Saudi Aramco despite global hang-ups By Melissa Hancock February 8, 2023 Creative Commons/Frank Schulenburg Demand for Zoom video conferencing is shrinking now that employees are going back to the office but opportunities still exist As Zoom Video Communications announced it was laying off 15 percent of its workforce, the Californian firm is set to partner with Saudi Aramco to build its first data centre in the Gulf state. Announcing the news on Tuesday at the Leap 2023 technology conference in Riyadh, Aramco president and CEO Amin Nassersaid: “Our new strategic partnership with Zoom is expected to further enable innovative solutions focusing on the digital transformation ecosystem.” More specifically, Aramco will work with Zoom on exploring the development of technology solutions for the energy sector, with the partnership also aiming to contribute to the digital transformation in other areas such as industry, education and healthcare. Aramco venture capital arm boosts tech startup funding by $300m The data centre will look to serve both Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. The announcement will provide some welcome relief to Zoom which revealed it is to cut around 1,300 jobs as demand for its services slows following the coronavirus pandemic. Zoom will incur about $50 million to $68 million in charges related to the layoffs, according to a regulatory filing. The company said a substantial part of it will be spent in the first quarter of fiscal 2024. After a nine-fold surge in profit in 2021, it is estimated to have fallen 38 percent in 2022. Its share price was down 63 percent last year. Recent research carried out in the Mena region found a preference for hybrid and remote working remains prevalent in the GCC. A survey published by LinkedIn last month showed that six out of every ten workers in Saudi said they would decline new in-office job offers in favour of hybrid or remote working. Similarly, a recent study by Cisco Middle East and Africa showed that, of the 1,050 full-time UAE employees surveyed, almost 90 percent said they wanted to work remotely or in a hybrid model in the future. “In 2023 we will also see natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning used in new and innovative ways in collaboration solutions, powering hybrid work,” Cisco said. Technology ranks as one of the key pillars of Saudi’s Vision 2030 strategy which seeks to diversify its economy by increasing the contribution of non-oil exports to GDP from 16 percent in 2016 to 50 percent.