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Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Pixabay Photo / CC0)

As the world’s leading public infrastructure cloud company looks for growth in 2018, it looks like Amazon Web Services is starting a process that would allow it to offer its services in Saudi Arabia.

Reuters reported Thursday that AWS is leading the discussions on behalf of Amazon with the Saudi government on procuring a license to operate cloud computing services inside the country. It sounds like those discussions are very preliminary, but Saudi Arabia’s large internet-connected population is a big opportunity for local startups and businesses that could use some world-class cloud computing.

New Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been shaking up the oil-rich country over the past six months in more ways than one. The country has been loosening its laws governing foreign investment, especially when it comes to technology, which paves the way for AWS to set up shop. The Reuters report noted that an AWS presence might naturally lead to a warehouse operation for Amazon itself, which could strengthen the company’s overall position in the Middle East.

AWS unveiled plans to build an infrastructure region in Bahrain earlier this year, and that region would presumably be used to fulfill demand for cloud services inside Saudi Arabia until an in-country data center is needed. Local telecom companies like STC Solutions and Mobily currently offer cloud computing services in Saudi Arabia, but it’s hard to imagine they can compete with the breadth and depth of cloud services offered by AWS.

AWS was the first of the Big Three cloud companies to establish a presence in the Middle East, and if demand for cloud services grows at the pace some Saudi IT market observers expect, others will likely follow suit in short order.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the status of the Bahrain region AWS is building in Bahrain.

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