Saudi entrepreneur appointed to board of cyber security group

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Nouf Abdullah Al-Rakan
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Updated 05 May 2018
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Saudi entrepreneur appointed to board of cyber security group

  • Nouf Abdullah Al-Rakan is the CEO of Educational Initiatives, an educational-development center in Riyadh.
  • In 2004, she established MITSCo, an information technology company specializing in programming mobile-phone applications, and continued in the technology field by expanding to sports portal programming and creating the Universal Sports web portal.

JEDDAH: Nouf Abdullah Al-Rakan has been appointed executive director of of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Cyber Security, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP), with the unanimous approval of board members impressed by her practical and administrative experience.
Saud Al-Qahtani, consultant at the Royal Court and head of the SAFCSP, announced the appointment of Al-Rakan, whose many professional roles include being CEO of an educational organization, through his Twitter account, describing her as a great addition to the federation.
On the sidelines of the MiSK Global Forum, Al-Rakan, who previously urged all women to believe in themselves, described her own academic and professional career as being “more difficult compared to nowadays.”
She said she received a first-class education and her parents did not spare any expense in her schooling, but added that it was difficult for her generation to achieve a high level of education that would pave the way for them to enter the labor market.
“When I started working, the job market had very few offerings for women,” said Al-Rakan. “It is something that I carried over as a person. When I worked as a pro-bono in the chambers of commerce, we lobbied a lot in the job market trying to create vacancies for women and change the labor law for their interests.”
She added that people cannot just wait for something to happen for them, adding: “You have to push for that change.”
Al-Rakan aims to encourage improvement and change for Saudis through good education, hard work and, most importantly, by improving self-confidence.
She says she is proud of being a businesswoman, and her role as CEO of Educational Initiatives, an educational-development center in Riyadh. She is a strong believer in a bright future for Saudi Arabia, driven by young talents in a country where women are empowered through studies and work.
The SAFCSP is a national institution, under the umbrella of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, which seeks to build national and professional capabilities in the fields of cybersecurity and programming, in line with established and internationally recognized practices and standards, to help the Kingdom rise through the ranks of developed countries in the domain of technology innovation.

 


One woman’s quest for a driving license in Saudi Arabia

Updated 24 June 2019
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One woman’s quest for a driving license in Saudi Arabia

  • One year after women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, the ranks of aspiring female drivers just keep swelling
  • Women could begin to think of driving in Saudi Arabia only since Sept. 26, 2017, when a landmark royal decree was issued

RIYADH: No sooner had the royal decree of Sept. 26, 2017 lifting the ban on women driving been issued than excitement filled Saudi Arabia. Women began to gear up for the big day when they would get behind the wheel without breaking the law.
I remember waking up my two young sons on the day the decree was announced with the words: “Well, gentlemen. It looks like I’ll be getting to drive before you both.” They looked at once stunned and delighted.
The royal decree took effect on June 24, 2018. It has been one year since women in Saudi Arabia were first allowed to drive, and the ranks of aspiring female drivers just keep swelling.
I had been hearing horror stories about the Saudi Driving School (SDS), located in Princess Nourah University in Riyadh, so I decided to put on my journalist hat and find out the truth. What I saw was somewhat different.
On May 23, I signed up for the driving placement exam, which allows women with prior driving experience to skip the mandatory 30 hours of lessons and settle for 12 or 6 hours, depending on an evaluation by a driving examiner.
I had my exam scheduled a full month later, but I had heard of exceptions being made, so I asked the officer concerned to set up an earlier appointment. My request was considered: I was evaluated in two weeks’ time and advised to take 12 hours of driving lessons.
Men in Saudi Arabia know from birth they will be able to drive on the Kingdom’s roads one day. Women, on the other hand, could afford to think likewise only since 2017. The goal of the SDS, according to its operations supervisor, Aseel Al-Saleh, is to “give women the confidence to overcome the fear of being on the road.”
She added: “When you take the final exam, wear your seat belt, say Bismillah and drive as you would do on the streets and not as if it were an exam you have to pass. No examiner will fail you if you succeed. Our pass rate is 90 percent.”
Although it opened its doors only a year ago, the SDS has already issued 40,000 driving licenses. After complaints of long waiting periods, the administrative process has been streamlined. With the staff working 12-hour shifts six days a week, help and guidance are always at hand for Riyadh’s aspiring female drivers. “Our motto is to teach them how to drive safely,” said Nora Al-Dossary, supervisor of marketing and PR at SDS.
For mothers with little children, the SDS has a high-quality nursery with a playground and a toy driving track. Kids can spend time there learning about road safety and getting their own “driving license” while their mothers finish their lessons.
Amira Al-Maliky, a lecturer coordinator, recounts the case of an elderly man who came to the office gates to tell her he had one daughter and a son who was in jail. If the daughter could drive, life would be different for him and his family. Al-Maliky said seeing the young woman’s learning process through to the end became a personal mission for her.
“The joy we get from helping people is what keeps us going,” she said. “We are trying our best to help all female applicants gain the confidence and the skill to take to the country’s roads.”
Of course some customers do have grumbles. A few applicants express frustration that they have to take lessons even after a full year of practice. Also, as Al-Dossary said, there are applicants who express surprise they have to take the full 30, or 12, hours of lessons despite having driven for a year without a license - and without “following the rules of safe and correct driving.”
At the same time, “the SDS recognizes unique Saudi talents and we are proud to have them as part of our school,” she said. She was referring to two instructors who have taken part in international racing. One of them, Jawaher AlZamil, who is now an examiner, was a rally racer who competed in the VMAX race in London last March. “My dream is to see Saudi women in the highest of positions” Al-Zamil said.
On June 20, I passed my theory exam. Now I am looking forward to the practical lessons, clearing the tests and joining the growing ranks of Saudi women who have a license to drive.