Exclusive Interview: Prince Turki says metro to change face of Riyadh

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Updated 12 August 2013
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Exclusive Interview: Prince Turki says metro to change face of Riyadh

JEDDAH:  The Riyadh Metro will bring about qualitative improvement in the city’s transport system and change the lifestyle of people in the city, said Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, deputy governor of Riyadh.
“The project will change the face of Riyadh and empower future Saudi generations to reach new heights of progress and prosperity,” the prince told Arab News.
Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar launched the project on Sunday night.
“We would like to have the best metro system in the world,” the deputy governor said, adding that the project is being implemented after studying similar projects in the US, Europe and East Asia.
“Our late arrival in this field may help us have the distinction of acquiring the best technology in public transport,” he said.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Prince Turki said the project, when first presented to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, was designed to have only one line in the first phase and the whole project would have taken 15 years to complete. “King Abdullah then instructed to construct six lines within four years,” the deputy governor said.
“The project’s studies and designs have been revised as per the king’s instructions and Prince Sultan (the late crown prince) and Crown Prince Salman, who was then governor of Riyadh, were supervising it.”
He said the metro would solve the problem of traffic jams in the capital city and ensure smooth flow of traffic. It will also increase the level of traffic safety and reduce the number of fatal accidents.
The fall in the number of vehicles on Riyadh roads will reduce pollution as well as temperature in the city. “There are many indirect benefits for this project. It will save a lot of time for Saudis and expats and will have a huge economic impact,” he said. Saving time is one of the standards used to rate world cities.
Prince Turki said the project would change the lifestyle of Riyadh people, adding that it would serve all groups of people. “It will also provide a dependable and flexible transport system for the city that goes in line with the city’s fast development,” he said. It would also meet Riyadh’s future requirements.
Prince Turki said the metro would create more job opportunities for Saudi youth. “We expect the project would be completed in less than five years,” he said, adding that a number of major international companies are involved in its implementation.
“This is for the first time such a number of international companies are working for a single project,” he pointed out.
Riyadh Metro is part of the new public transport system, which includes bus services. It would meet present and future requirements. “The bus system will be ready before metro,” he said.
Asked if there is any plan to impose any toll for using some main roads in order to encourage people to use the metro instead of their cars, Prince Turki said: “We would like to encourage people to use public transport but without imposing any fees.”
A study is being conducted with the support of King Saud University to promote a culture using public transport, the prince said. Prince Turki said King Abdullah’s keen interest in the project would be one of the factors for its success, ensuring a high standard. He referred to the rapid development of Riyadh with the implementation of massive projects such as King Abdullah Financial District.
“This will be an integrated cultural project in downtown Riyadh,” he said adding that the metro stations inside the city would be designed in accordance with the distinguished Najdi architecture.
King Abdullah’s generous support to Riyadh projects would open new horizons of progress and prosperity for the city and its people, the deputy governor said.
He commended the role played by Prince Salman for Riyadh’s development when he was the region’s governor. “Prince Salman and (late) Prince Sattam have laid down the city’s strategic plans and we are now completing their work,” 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.”