Saudi Cabinet allocates $100m for relief projects in Yemen

King Salman chairs the Cabinet meeting at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Monday. (SPA)
Updated 02 May 2017

Saudi Cabinet allocates $100m for relief projects in Yemen

JEDDAH: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministers of interior, defense and foreign affairs recently held their 18th joint consultative meeting and expressed their desire to extend bridges of cooperation with regional countries to consolidate security and peace, and to expand economic cooperation.
Chaired by King Salman, the Cabinet at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah Monday commended the ministers’ efforts in preventing external interference in their internal affairs, attempts to infringe their national unity, incite sectarian strife, support terrorist groups and criminal activities, and hostile media campaigns.
The Cabinet appreciated the concerted efforts and coordinated stances of the GCC ministers to boost joint security in the Gulf.
The UN-sponsored donors’ conference is funding the humanitarian response plan in Yemen 2017 in Geneva.
The Cabinet noted the Kingdom’s donation of $150 million to support projects of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in addition to another $100 million allocated to support KSRelief’s projects in Yemen.
The Kingdom’s condemnation of the two bombings that occurred in a Baghdad district, which resulted in a number of deaths and injuries was highlighted.
The efforts of the security personnel and their continued investigations of the crimes of the terror cell in the Jeddah province were appreciated by the Cabinet.
Efforts of the Border Guards in Jazan and their success in countering a possible terrorist attack of blowing up Saudi Aramco’s dock and oil product distribution station in Jazan using a booby-trapped boat were also commended.
Ten new programs announced by the Council of Economic Affairs and Development which reached completion in line with what has been approved in the National Transformation Program 2020 and the Financial Balance Program 2020 and are meant to support the Saudi Vision 2030, were all highlighted by the Cabinet.

A series of decisions approved by the Cabinet were:
• The minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance to discuss an MoU for cooperation in Islamic affairs between the Kingdom and Albania; the president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage to discuss an MoU for cooperation in tourism between the two countries.
• An agreement between the Kingdom and Egypt on the avoidance of double taxation and banning tax evasion on income tax and associated protocols.
• An MoU between the Saudi and Turkmenistan governments on sports.
• A cooperation protocol in science and technology between the Saudi King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and the Turkish Council of Scientific Research and Technology.
• The establishment of a commercial mission in the Saudi Embassy in the Republic of Korea.
• The expansion of the work of the Water and Electricity Company, in its capacity as a major buyer of water, to include buying desalinated, treated and non-treated water and its right to sell it.
• The finance minister to provide the necessary credit support to the Water and Electricity Company in support of its financial competence.
Ministers of environment and water, and finance to take necessary regulatory measures to transfer ownership of the company into a full government-owned company.

Majority of Saudi companies gearing up for future with AI technology: Business report

Updated 25 min 38 sec ago

Majority of Saudi companies gearing up for future with AI technology: Business report

  • 89 percent of Saudi businesses indicated AI to be an important consideration of executive management — study
  • Kingdom well-positioned to “leapfrog” other countries in the race toward digital transformation

RIYADH: Companies in Saudi Arabia are gearing up to take advantage of the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI), according to an in-depth regional business report.

Although firms in the Kingdom remain wary of committing major investment to the emerging technology, many are already implementing data improvement initiatives to prepare for an AI-enabled future.

New research revealed on Tuesday that 89 percent of Saudi businesses indicated AI to be an important consideration of executive management, with predictive technology seen as the most relevant application by 79 percent of companies who took part in the survey.

And experts believe the Kingdom is well-positioned to “leapfrog” other countries in the race toward achieving the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.

According to the AI maturity report covering the Middle East and Africa, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young (EY), the Saudi business community is keeping up to speed on developments.

Releasing the report to the media, Thamer Al-Harbi, president of Microsoft Arabia, said: “Saudi Arabian businesses are taking a keen interest in AI from a strategic viewpoint. This bodes well for the future of the technology within the Kingdom as AI maturity begins with executives identifying business problems that need to be solved.

“Saudi companies are gearing up to take their AI agenda to the next level and moving forward by leveraging AI technology in alignment with the National Transformation Program 2020 toward achieving Vision 2030.

“Although they are still near the beginning of the maturity curve, they are well-positioned to leverage global experience in AI, which could ultimately enable them to leapfrog other countries in the next few years,” added Al-Harbi.

Despite AI activity having been relatively quiet in Saudi Arabia over the past 10 years, with a total investment of around $585 million, the Kingdom emerged strongly again in 2018, said the report.

Across industries, there was a significant buzz around the topic of AI, with 42 percent of companies reporting that conversations on the subject were already taking place at non-managerial levels, the highest percentage recorded by any country in the Middle East and Africa, Al-Harbi said.

AI development, though in its earliest stages, is underway. At least 26 percent of businesses reported that they were planning AI activity, while at the same time actively investing in relevant skills.

Pockets of excellence were also shown to be emerging, with 16 percent of companies saying AI was already contributing significantly to their business processes.

While Saudi executives intuitively sense the value of AI, they are conscious that getting too caught up in the hype might blind them to the dangers of investing in technology that is only just starting to demonstrate its commercial value.

As it stands, the main concern for businesses in implementing AI is the diffusion of their resources.

The report found that at least 32 percent of firms in the Kingdom were cautious of spreading their budgetary and human resources too thin, and that the primary focus for most was digitization. Although 37 percent of respondents viewed AI as an important priority, it was not at the top of their list.

Instead, they were actively building the infrastructure needed for digital transformation, starting with good-quality data.

Steve Plimsoll, MENA data and intelligence advisory leader for EY, said: “The biggest problem to date with AI is that it is not always right. AI has given us the ability to make data-driven predictions, decisions and actions faster than ever before, but it is only as effective as the data and algorithms it relies on.

“So, while it’s great to see local companies investing in adoption of AI, the focus must be on building trust that the underlying data and algorithms are reliable, the models ethical and the predictions are measurable and as accurate as they can be. Without trust, AI will never fully move from fiction into reality.”

The report also revealed that in general, Saudi businesses were upbeat about the future impact of AI on their businesses and 37 percent expected it to impact their core business to a very high degree.

Those quizzed were particularly positive about the potential of AI to assist employees in executing their daily functions more effectively.

Currently, prediction was seen as the most relevant application of AI for 79 percent of Saudi companies, with organizations using AI to predict risk and fraud or combining it with intelligent automation to assign workloads to individuals, ultimately optimizing business processes, the report said.

The study added that 68 percent of respondents indicated that automation was one of the most relevant applications of AI in their pursuit of operational efficiency.