Saudi, British tech innovators line up behind first dual-nation hackathon

Updated 04 November 2016

Saudi, British tech innovators line up behind first dual-nation hackathon

LONDON/RIYADH: Leading international, UK and Saudi businesses, organizations and start-ups within tech, innovation, health and business investment have lined up to support the first ever MiSK Hackathon event taking place live and simultaneously in London and Riyadh on Nov. 25 to 27.
Representatives from Microsoft, STC, the Saudi-British Joint Business Council, the British Council, the British Embassy in Riyadh, the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia, HealthTech Women, Tech London Advocates, Women Who Code, Stemettes, Code:First Girls and GrowthEnabler, among many more, have all pledged support, with many occupying mentoring roles at the event. The panel of judges will soon be unveiled.
Organized by the MiSK Foundation, the Hackathon is part of its ongoing work to cultivate learning and leadership among all Saudi youth through innovative programs in association with local and global organizations and partners across diverse and creative fields, under the patronage of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In what the deputy crown prince has called a “milestone initiative”, the event will be the first time that cross-cultural, mixed gender collaboration between the two nations has taken place, with up to 400 participants communicating through technology and a live satellite broadcast link to dream up a health tech innovation.
Prince Mohammed said: “Strong and collaborative cross-nation partnership through technology, innovation and youth enterprise hold the keys to a thriving, healthy, diverse and prosperous state, paving the way for our next generation and the future of our Kingdom.”
Welcoming the initiative, UK Executive Director Chris Innes-Hopkins of the Saudi-British Joint Business Council said: “The UK is a key strategic partner for Saudi Arabia's implementation of Vision 2030. In a global economy, collaboration between the two nations is an important driver of tech innovation, entrepreneurship and shared productivity. We hope this initiative inspires more Saudi-UK innovation ventures of this kind.”
The British Council has also applauded the initiative for increasing cross-cultural connectivity. Says British Council Country Director, Saudi Arabia, Amir Ramzan: “All our work in Saudi promotes cross-cultural collaboration and is driven by the belief that a people-to-people approach helps to build long term trust and understanding. We’re delighted to be working with MiSK Hackathon this year to connect young, ambitious entrepreneurs in Saudi and the UK and give them a space where they can experiment together and accelerate their thinking."
Deemah Alyahya, executive director of Microsoft, which is supporting the event, said: “The MiSK Hackathon is all about connecting people around the world through technology, helping them realize their full potential. That’s our aim too, and we’re proud to support anything that helps bring about such positive change.”
The initiative has also driven accolades from leading female-focused tech and health organizations and networks, which all champion the ambition to bring more women into a male-dominated technology sector.
Comments Maxine Mackintosh, UK chair of international network, HealthTech Women: “In the UK, about 20 percent of the Med Tech sector are female. It’s encouraging that the Middle East is breaking new ground with an increasing trend of entrepreneurial women entering this sector, and it’s great to see initiatives like this, which have a huge role to play in fostering diversity through shared experiences and learning.”
Adds Gen Ashley, director of global nonprofit organization Women Who Code: “Technology is an empowering force and can be a key emancipator for women no matter what their lifestyle or life stage. We need to see greater diversity and greater opportunity for women in this sector. It’s a vital path to progress and could open up doors to innovation we’d never dreamed of.”
The organizers said limited places are still available and candidates can register at

First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

Updated 59 min 43 sec ago

First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

  • The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah
  • Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetched SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction

JEDDAH: Art for Al Balad, the first charity auction of contemporary art in the Kingdom, achieved sales of SR 4.8 million ($1.3 million) on Wednesday.

The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, all of which sold, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah, on Wednesday. It was organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with auction house Christie’s.

“It was much above our expectations; we are very happy,” said Michael Jeha, chairman of Christie's Middle East.

About 200 Saudi art collectors joined artists and other members of the Saudi and international cultural communities at the event. Bidding was highly competitive, with “Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetching SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction.


• Nassif House was built in 1872. Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, was received at this house upon his entry to the city in 1925.

• The Saudi government is keen to restore and preserve buildings with historic and cultural significance, and carries out regular renovation work.

• Al-Balad, or Jeddah historic district, is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kingdom. It contains about 600 buildings that date back to the 19th century.


“Where to” by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen was the second-most expensive work, selling for SR 500,000, while “Witness in the Desert” by Abdullah Al-Sahikh attracted a winning bid of SR 380,000.

“It was extremely pleasing, very encouraging,” said Jeha. “The energy in the room was fantastic. The enthusiasm was very strong. I think for the very first auction, we can all be extremely pleased.”

Jeha described the growth of the art scene and culture in general in Saudi Arabia as very impressive, and said that the Ministry of Culture has developed a strong platform and program for the coming years, which will help to establish art and culture in the hearts and minds of people in the Kingdom.

The profits from the auction will help to establish a new heritage museum in Jeddah’s historic district and support The Help Center, a non-profit organization that provides customized support to children in the city with special educational needs.

The auction received donations and funding from galleries, cultural foundations, private collectors, and artists across the Arab World, the assistance of which was acknowledged by the Ministry of Culture.

“This would not be possible without the generous support of both the donors and the talented artists,” said Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, deputy minister of culture, in his opening speech.

The ministry aspires to create and develop a cultural environment in which artists and other creatives can access a platform that celebrates a shared identity and builds understanding between people.

Speaking of the Ministry’s three main objectives in its cultural vision for 2019, Fayez said that it aims to support the nation’s cultural transformation by promoting culture as a way of life, enable the sector to contribute to the economy, and encourage international cultural exchanges.

Before the auction, the works on sale were on display to the public in an exhibition on June 23 and 24.