Saudi Arabia’s Neom city is facing billions of dollars of cost overruns to date, with barely anything built to show for it. Neom is the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman(MBS), who has pledged to invest 500 Billion dollars into the city. Announced in 2017, the project wants to make a barren desert into a high-tech metropolis, with the key building being The Line, twin skyscrapers that expand over 110 miles.
The city plans to have artificial intelligence run day-to-day operations and have technology that does not exist yet, such as flying taxis, holographic teachers, and an artificial moon. Neom plans to collect 90% of available data from residents, according to Business Insider. The system will be run under the Neos operating system, with every resident have a unique ID number, and technology such as heart rate monitors, fingerprint sensors, and facial-recognition cameras will keep a constant track of people both inside the city and tourists.
The Saudi government has been accused of using software to hack into the smartphones of dissidents and journalists to determine their long-term goals. There is already speculation that the Saudi government will use all the personal data to spy on and control the people who live in Neom and The Line.
On the PR side, American social media users have lambasted the project of not just how dystopian the concept art of the line is, but also contrasting it with the myriad of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Saudi Arabian government. Just a year after Neom was announced, Middle East Eye and Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi was assassinated, with US intelligence stating that MBS personally ordered it. About 20,000 people already living in the area were also forced to migrate by the Saudi Arabian government.
Neom and The Line are all under the Vision 2030, which will try to set the Saudi Arabian economy toward a post-oil future. They have partnered with F1 for a racing track, former President Trump to set up a competing golf course called the LIV golf series, and have brought WWE wrestlers to wrestle in Jeddah. They even lifted their ban on movie theaters.
They have taken incremental steps into more women’s rights, such as in 2018, allowing women to drive. In 2019, the Saudi government, allowed women above the age of 21 to apply for a passport and travel abroad without a male guardian approval, and being able to register legal documents.
-Written by GoodHistory Contributor Alexander Korfiatis