Riyadh, Beijing launch ‘digital silk road’ initiative

Updated 15 December 2017

Riyadh, Beijing launch ‘digital silk road’ initiative

RIYADH: The Kingdom and China have launched the “Digital Silk Road” initiative.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Mishaigeh, undersecretary of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for Saudi Planning and Development, made the announcement during a Saudi delegation’s participation in the World Internet Conference, which concluded recently in Wuzhen City in China.
The name “Silk Road” comes from a historical network of trade routes started during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) between Europe, India, China and other countries on the Afro-Eurasian landmass.
The Saudi delegation also held a meeting with the National Development and Reform Commission to activate the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in January 2016.
The MoU was intended to promote and develop the “Digital Silk Road” as well as review the Chinese experience in building smart cities.
Al-Mishaigeh called on the Chinese to boost partnerships and benefit from Saudi investment and geographical capabilities to transfer knowledge and achieve progress in the field of technology, which the Kingdom is betting on as a knowledge economic resource.
Speaking at the conference, Al-Mishaigeh said that Saudi Arabia has started implementing the desired social and economic transformation in accordance with the Vision 2030 plan.
He said that the city of Neom will be the focus of artificial intelligence, automation, manufacturing and renewable energy in the world.
Neom is a $500 billion mega city on the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast, which is part of the national push to diversify the economy.
The 26,500 square meters zone will focus on industries including energy, water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said.
“Neom will attract private as well as public investments and partnerships. The zone will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, local as well as international investors,” he said.
The Saudi delegation also visited the Huawei Research Center in Shanghai to learn about the latest technologies in infrastructure, smart cities and the Chinese experience in enabling the digital economy.
The conference was organized by the Chinese Electronic Space Administration and Zheijiang Province’s government with the participation of leading figures from governments, international organizations, companies, technical sector departments as well as non-government agencies.

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”