Let technology empower our youth, Queen Rania tells Arab world

Queen Rania of Jordan delivers her address at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh. (AN photo by Ahmed Fathi)
Updated 15 November 2017
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Let technology empower our youth, Queen Rania tells Arab world

RIYADH: Queen Rania of Jordan urged the Arab world on Wednesday to create more opportunities for its youth, strengthen its education systems and harness technology to empower its societies.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision was one of “support for innovation and science, and opportunities to which young Saudis aspire,” the queen told the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh.

She called for the adoption of technologies that “add value to our lives,” expand educational and leadership opportunities for young people, and “provide them with opportunities to realize their potential and achieve their ambitions.”

“Let us inspire them to feel that the future is theirs, as we strive to create a fertile land for us and our children, a land where dreams are nurtured and can bear fruit,” the queen said.

In a powerful speech that drew cheers from an audience of mainly young Saudis, Queen Rania said the destructive impact of conflicts was felt by children across the region.

“How will we keep up with changing educational models and strengthen our education system, when 13 million Arab children are currently deprived of schooling, and the majority of the rest are offered an outdated education?” she said.

Queen Rania, who visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh last month, said: “Their reality — and that of others combating illness, poverty, ignorance and exclusion within our Arab world — hasn’t been changed by advances in science and technology, neither has innovation alleviated their suffering.”

The queen called for the motives for acquiring technology to be re-evaluated. “Rather than a race to the top for the privileged few, our priority should be employing technology to empower entire societies. What we need is technology with a heart — one that beats for us.”

A leading technology entrepreneur told the forum that women and young people would lead Saudi Arabia’s drive to embrace a digital future. “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.”

In a session moderated by Arab News Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas, Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha said: “There couldn’t be a much better time in terms of unprecedented change. 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.

The Misk Global Forum 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 in 2011 to empower Saudi youth to take part in the knowledge economy.

As the forum took place, Commerce and Investment Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi issued 11 new licences to entrepreneurs in a new program to boost the growth of the small and medium-sized enterprise sector.

“Saudi Arabia offers extraordinary opportunities for foreign innovators and investors,” said Dr. Ghassan Al-Sulaiman, governor of Monsha’at, Saudi Arabia’s SME Authority. “ We know we have the talent — our job now is to match-make and provide the opportunities.”


Israeli air strikes kill three Palestinians in Gaza after rocket fire

Updated 12 November 2018
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Israeli air strikes kill three Palestinians in Gaza after rocket fire

GAZA: Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed three Palestinians on Monday after a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave, as renewed violence threatened to derail efforts to restore calm.

Israel's military said it had so far struck more than 20 militant sites in response to some 80 launches from the Hamas-run territory, reportedly rockets and mortars.

Missile defences had intercepted a number of the rockets, the military said.

The army said an Israeli bus was hit by fire from the Gaza Strip. Medics reported one person severely wounded.

A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 shows missiles being launched toward Israel. (AFP)

Medics also said six people from the southern Israeli city of Sderot were lightly wounded.

Israeli police said a rocket hit a house in Netivot, another southern Israeli town.

Gaza's health ministry said three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes.

Militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said two were its members.

A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 shows missiles being launched toward Israel. A number of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. (AFP)

Hamas meanwhile said it was behind the rocket fire on behalf of all Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, saying it was in revenge for a deadly Israeli military operation late Sunday.

On Sunday, a clash erupted during an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip that killed seven Palestinian militants, including a local commander for Hamas's armed wing, and an Israeli army officer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Paris and rushed home as tensions rose, and on Monday convened a meeting of security chiefs.

Israel had stressed its covert operation on Sunday was an intelligence-gathering mission and “not an assassination or abduction,” but Hamas strongly denounced it and vowed revenge.

Israel signalled that Sunday's mission did not go as planned and resulted in the clash, which Palestinian officials said included Israeli air strikes.

In the immediate aftermath of the clash, Israel said it identified 17 launches - likely rockets or mortars - toward its territory from Gaza, with three intercepted by missile defences. No injuries were reported.

Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said the Israeli special forces team had infiltrated near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in a civilian car.

Al-Qassam agents stopped it and wanted to search it, realised it was an Israeli operation and confronted them, it said in a statement.

An exchange of fire followed in which local Al-Qassam commander Nour Baraka was killed along with another militant, it said.

The car then attempted to flee and Israeli aircraft provided covering fire.

An Israeli helicopter landed near the fence and took away the special forces troops, according to Al-Qassam.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus declined to comment on the Al-Qassam account "because of the sensitive nature of the operation".

Israel provided few details on Sunday's operation, saying it was carried out by special forces and resulted in an "exchange of fire".

A funeral was held for the seven Palestinian militants on Monday attended by thousands, including masked Al-Qassam members carrying rifles, some firing into the air.

On the Israeli side of the border, residents said they had stayed close to shelters throughout the night.

“I was sitting in my living room and around 10 pm or 11 pm, I suddenly heard the sound of helicopter gunships firing,” said Gadi Yarkoni, head of a regional council in the area and a resident of Nirim Kibbutz.

“It was right above the village I'm living in. It was very unpleasant.”

The clashes came after months of deadly unrest along the Gaza-Israel border had appeared to be calming.

Recent weeks have seen Israel allow Qatar to provide the Gaza Strip with millions of dollars in aid for salaries as well as fuel to help ease an electricity crisis.

Before the flare-up, Netanyahu had defended his decision to allow Qatar to transfer the cash to Gaza despite criticism from within his own government over the move, saying he wanted to avoid a war if it was not necessary.

Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu's education minister and right-wing rival, compared the cash flow to "protection money" paid to criminals.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and recent months have raised fears of a fourth.

Deadly clashes have accompanied major protests along the Gaza-Israel border that began on March 30.

At least 230 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, while others died in tank fire or air strikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that time.

Egyptian and UN officials have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in an effort to reach a long-term truce deal.