Skype faces ban in Saudi Arabia

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Updated 27 March 2013
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Skype faces ban in Saudi Arabia

WhatsApp, Viber and Skype users in the Kingdom face the risk of being barred from these applications if the owners of these communication platforms do not provide a monitoring server by the end of this week.
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) is threatening blockage of programs and applications that provide conversation and visual communication because they use encrypted connections, an Arabic daily reported.
According to two informed sources who work at local telecommunication companies, this issue has been at the top of the agenda of discussions during meetings between heads of telecom companies and the CITC over the past 20 days. The meetings have finally concluded with the CITC demanding that it be allowed to monitor the encrypted applications. In addition, officials from the CITC have cautioned that they might block these programs if they fail to reach an acceptable solution with the owners.
In an initial reaction to the news, both Saudi and non-Saudi users have expressed anger and annoyance, as some of the applications that might be halted have become vital conduits of communication between family and friends.
“I would be very disappointed if CITC disconnects this server; I use it every day to talk to my wife and children who live in India,” said Indian schoolteacher Mohammed Akram. “Viber is the cheapest way to reach my children. It enables me to chat with them, share pictures and send voice messages. If they ban it, I would have to go back to talking to my children once a month without seeing them until I visit them,” he added.
Saudi students on scholarships who use the Skype video application to contact their parents are also disappointed.
“I really don’t understand what they mean by monitoring. Are they going to tap into the conversations I have with my mother and sister? Does that mean they are going to have to wear the veil when they open the camera for me?” pondered Khalid Tunsi, a finance student in the US. “If they cut off these applications, it will make my life really difficult because with this technology I am able to see my mother every day,” he added.
Tunsi’s mother is also concerned with this news, saying this application has bought her comfort. “No one understands what I’m going through; my only son is living a million miles away and he only receives one ticket per year from the Saudi Cultural Attaché to come home for a visit,” she said. “If they take these applications away from me, I will really be depressed.”
WhatsApp is an application that businessmen such as Hani Ayyash use to communicate with his employees and clients for free. “I have created a group for my colleagues and employees, especially when I’m traveling, as I need to be informed about any updates,” he said. “Is CITC giving us lower rates after banning free applications that everyone uses? I believe they should provide us with a replacement because all we want is to obtain lower rates and free communication technology,” he added.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”