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Saudi Arabia is talking with some of the largest and most popular companies of the world to develop a technology that will power life in the $500 billion city that the Crown Prince is planning to build on the Red Sea, said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince says he will transform the city

On Wednesday, in an interview to the news site Bloomberg News in Riyadh, the Prince said that the project, which is dubbed Neom, is due to open for business by 2025 where it is expected that limited operations will start as early as 2020. He said that the China-based e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the U.S.-based e-commerce company Amazon Inc. and Airbus SE are involved in talks already.

The 32-year old prince told the news publisher, “We are talking with everyone. We have the ‘who’s who’ from around the world engaging in this.” Prince Mohammed, who is heir to the throne of the world’s biggest oil exporter, is trying to steer Saudi Arabia away from oil-dependence, which is something that some large economies have been able to manage.

The young Prince announced the City project this week and said that he will transform “the religious basis of Saudi society and make its austere version of Islam more moderate.” In a promotional video for Neom, which was released this week, the two goals of the Prince seemed to overlap. The video featured scenes that are inconceivable in existing Saudi cities.

Neom will assist its neighbors as well

In an interview, Prince Mohammed said that the Internet of Things and Artificial intelligence will combine to provide a lifestyle that is not available anywhere else. He said, “Your medical file will be connected with your home supply, with your car, linked to your family, linked to your other files. And the system develops itself in how to provide you with better things.”

The 32-year old Prince is envisioning an app-driven city, which is almost completely responsive and automated to the requirements of its residents. He said that the first robot in Neom will be Neom itself. In a note, a London-based consultancy, Capital Economics wrote, “Is Saudi Arabia about to repeat past mistakes?” It said that when it comes to fulfilling megaprojects, the kingdom has a patchy record.

When the Prince was asked if the new city would compete with other regional commercial hubs like Dubai, he said that the result will be more a win-win than a zero-sum. The Prince said Neom will create new demand which will assist its neighbors as well. He said, “I don’t think Hong Kong harmed Singapore, or Singapore harmed Hong Kong.”

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