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

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system, when 13 million Arab children are currently deprived of schooling, and the majority of the rest are offered an outdated education?”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.”


Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

Updated 24 January 2020

Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.