Boosting ICT key to Kingdom's growth



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Published — Monday 19 November 2012

Last update 19 November 2012 3:07 am

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Providing the Kingdom with the latest and newest technology, supporting women and youth, and facilitating the Internet access for each individual are the main three concerns of Aysegul Ildeniz, regional director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa regions of Intel Corporation.
Ildeniz who has worked tirelessly to expand the use of ICT among women and underserved communities in the Middle East and Africa, including spearheading the World Ahead program, which is designed to address the digital divide and promote rural technology development, spoke to Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News in Riyadh to spotlight on Intel's latest development projects in Saudi ICT market.

What is Intel's vision in the Middle East in general and Saudi Arabia in particular for boosting IT investment opportunities?
As Intel is one of the largest IT companies in the world, our vision is to make sure of bringing the latest technology and make a difference in peoples' lives. Our operations in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia have been active for over ten years. We are very dedicated to ensure that our latest technology and innovations are available in Saudi market once they are available in the rest of the world. We position ourselves to bring a transformation to the countries we deal in for business. We have worked together with the government particularly for the citizens to better their understanding of using the technology. We believe that technology alone in not good unless people use it and have a way to transform their lives with it. It is amazing to see the transformation that Saudi society has been going through for the past seven years. Saudi government has an active participation in the changing world and they actively use technology to bring transformation to Saudi society, where Intel has a good contribution to do that.

What is the role of CSR and leadership in today's global economy and how Intel activates its role in these fields?
We don't think any large or leading company in the world like Intel can do business without making CSR a part of its core activity in any country that it operates in. We take pride in doing various programs in the world globally with the focus very much on education issues in Saudi Arabia and the world to make sure that education is executed through technology. We have been training students, teachers, and women. Teaching people is a good business for us; how technology makes the business more efficient and how to pursue technology in their daily life. For example, we have Intel teach program in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, where students can learn normal curriculum by using PC all of the 21st century skills. The focus is mostly on research. We trained 850,000 teachers across the Arab word, where KSA has a fair share.

Intel has a great effect in terms of educating youth, supporting women, and enhancing entrepreneurial skills. Tell me what program does Intel offer in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the GCC to achieve its vision?
We have six initiatives in Middle East and all of them are operated in Saudi Arabia. We are committed to continue with our contributions in Saudi Arabia. We had the Digital Transformation Initiative (DTI). It is a multi-year comprehensive program launched back in 2005 to expand Intel's economic, educational and technology-related support throughout the region including Saudi Arabia. Talking about education, Intel launched a program called 'Intel Teach Program' where we trained 850,000 teachers in the Arab region helping them to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms.
In addition we had the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) aimed at encouraging students of the 14-8 age group to gain interest in scientific research and conduct research projects based on the methodology and tenets of scientific research. It has been launched in seven countries across the Middle East, with a total of 18 affiliated fairs. This year, Saudi students have captured seven grand and special awards in the competition.
Intel Science Competition - Arab world (ISC-AW) is a pan-Arab science competition (similar to ISEF). Last year, more than 190 participants from 11 Arab countries participated in the competition in the Middle East. The 3rd ISC-AW is being held in the UAE in November-December 2012.In addition, we had this year the National Olympiad for Science where more than 500 male and female students participated from different schools around the country with more than 400 projects in innovation and scientific research. This fair sets the stage for the top winners to be part of ISEF in the United States every year. If we go back to Intel's contributions in innovation and entrepreneurship, there are many, including Intel Global Challenge at UC Berkeley, the National Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge, and Intel Learn for Women (MISHKAT) in partnership with Prince Sultan University. This program was launched as a voluntary program in February 2012 aiming at 44 poorly educated women in the 20-45 age group to strengthen their skills and help them start their own businesses and seek better jobs.

What are Intel's plans in terms of hosting key technology activities in Saudi Arabia? And how could you describe the current situation?
Our primary objective is enabling latest technology in the rest of the world as well as Saudi Arabia. We work with retailers, distributors, bankers, and governmental sector. We introduce latest technology in different enterprises. For example, we have a project to make sure that people in far cities have a better access to PCs and technology. It is called 'Technology penetration in the country.'
Competition in the GCC market

It is a very growing market. Hence the growth expectations are down in the past couple of years, GCC is still a growing market. What we have seen is ITC revenue keeps increasing year after year. The GCC wants to make sure of having latest and best Internet, smartphones, PCs, and ultra books. We believe that competition means innovation and that is the only driver in market technology. I can say that ICT in Saudi Arabia compared to the rest of the GCC market ranks the first. The Kingdom's ICT business represents 60 percent of the GCC market. It is a huge business and its potential in Saudi Arabia continues to grow.

How does Intel contribute to boost IT in Saudi banks, hospitals, schools, and companies. And how could you describe the current stage?
We understand that we need solutions in ICT. We work on various solutions to make sure that all our partners can utilize solutions in any city. For example, we developed content, which provide teachers with special tools to monitor what students are doing in classrooms, give quizzes, and communicate with each individual. We still try to better our services.

What do you think about emerging job opportunities through the establishment of SMEs in the IT industry to boost Saudi economy?
I believe that this generation is really lucky because they have the same chance to do anything they want and to make change through technology, whether social media, PCs, or the Internet. They can be global citizens wherever they are. If they have good ideas, they can do whatever they want. During the entrepreneurship project that we had, I noticed wonderful projects coming from dynamic Saudi youth, both male and female. I believe that the future of any emerging market is going to be in the IT sector. It is the only way, particularly for Arabs, to take a leap. The kids have a chance and they should use it by educating themselves.

Do you believe that Saudi women have an active role in ICT? Or do they need more support in terms of getting more job opportunities in this sector?
I think changes are coming rapidly. I met a large number of Saudi women who are academic teachers, researchers, students, and businesswomen. I believe the government has a remarkable plan for young Saudi females to become businesswomen and encourage them to get good education. The change is coming; half of the students that I met in Saudi Arabia are studying computer, engineering, and IT. It is important to boost their skills and create job opportunities for them.

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