Women and youth ‘will drive Saudi Arabia’s digital future”

Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha, center, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene, right, and Arab News Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas at a panel discussion on "Opportunities in Abundance — Youth, Help us Make it Happen” at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday. (AN photo by Ahmed Fathi)
Updated 15 November 2017
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Women and youth ‘will drive Saudi Arabia’s digital future”

RIYADH: Women and young people will lead Saudi Arabia’s drive to embrace a digital future, a leading technology entrepreneur told a forum in Riyadh on Wednesday.

“The excitement and embracing of change is so palpable here,” said Diane Greene, chief executive of Google Cloud. “I’m very optimistic about what’s possible here.”

Greene said Saudi Arabia already had female experts and leaders in the field of technology, who would find no difficulty in participating in the technical future of the Kingdom.

On her first visit to Saudi Arabia, she said she was impressed by young people and their enthusiasm for change and making a difference.

Greene was speaking on the first day of the Misk Global Forum, which brings young leaders, creators and thinkers together with established innovators to explore ways to meet the challenge of change. The Misk Foundation was established by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to empower Saudi youth to take part in the knowledge economy.

The Google Cloud chief took part in a panel discussion with Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha. The session was moderated by Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News.

They spoke against a background of rapid change in Saudi Arabia, with an end to the ban on women driving and the crown prince’s launch this month of the $500 billion Neom “city of the future” project.

“There couldn’t be a much better time in terms of unprecedented change,” said Alswaha. “The rate of change right now is giving us a unique and a big window to leapfrog into the future.”

The digitization of the Saudi economy will be fully powered by youth, said Alswaha, with 70 percent of the population under the age of 30. “This gives the Kingdom a unique and competitive advantage powered by knowledge, entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Alswaha announced a new partnership between his ministry, Misk and the Mohammed bin Salman College for Business and Entrepreneurship to adopt 30 young local entrepreneurs and tech companies, such as Careem, the taxi app, and Telfaz, the internet TV app. “We will put them through a one-year program, get them exposure to the Silicon Valleys of the world, to the European successes in the world, introduce them to some venture capitalists and accelerators, and join hands with some big tech and knowledge powerhouses,” he said.

In September, the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission lifted the ban on applications that provide voice and video call services over the internet. Alswaha said the move had benefited a wide variety of people, from Saudi soldiers on the southern border to scholarship students who could now more easily contact their loved ones at home.

Communication and information technology managed to engage people and offered a better way of life, Alswaha said, and the Kingdom had a golden opportunity in the world of digital transformation. “Competitiveness relies on you,” he told Saudi youth.

The two-day forum concludes on Thursday.


Gruelling Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia’s ‘captivating’ deserts revealed by Sports Authority

Updated 25 April 2019
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Gruelling Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia’s ‘captivating’ deserts revealed by Sports Authority

AL-QADDIYA: More details about the Dakar Rally expected to take place in January 2020 in Saudi Arabia were released on Thursday by the Kingdom's General Sports Authority at an event in Al-Qaddiya.

The race starts on Jan. 5 in Jeddah, with the drivers set to race through Al-Madinah, Tabuk and Ha’il regions before a having a rest day in Riyadh. From the capital, the route winds its way back toward the coast through the Asir region and ends in the city of Al-Qaddiya on Jan. 12.

Speaking at the event, the chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal announced a 10-year partnership with the Dakar Rally, saying: "We want the world to see the captivating desert of Saudi Arabia and to get to know the good and hospitable people of the Kingdom that looks forward to receiving the world.

“Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030 of which sport is a basic pillar.

“In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”

It was announced earlier this month that the race would be held in Saudi Arabia, and for the first time in the Middle East.

The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009. The gruelling multi-stage rally was previously held in Africa but was relocated after terrorist threats in Mauritania in 2008.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said when the race announcement was made: “I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally, while I wasn’t fortunate to achieve that ambition, I’m now part of achieving a much bigger dream for my country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.”

CEO of Qiddiya project Michael Reininger said: "Qiddiya will soon become the centre of the motorsports world by virtue of an unparalleled collection of on track and off road facilities and a set of experiences and events that have never been assembled in one place before.”

The CEO of the rally's organizing company, Amaury Sport Organization, Yann Le Moenner thanked the princes for their commitment to bringing the rally to Saudi Arabia, adding: “Crossing the best deserts of the world has always been in the DNA of the Dakar, to discover and share.”

Meanwhile, the drivers involved in the rally have been in Saudi Arabia soaking up local culture and experiencing some of the desert landscapes they will drive through in January.