Google and MiSK Foundation to equip 100,000 Saudi students with digital skills

Matt Brittin, Google’s president for EMEA, at the launch of the Maharat min Google program. Courtesy Google
  • Google launches Maharat min Google Arabic language digital skills program
  • Saudi training program targets 50 percent female participation

Google will provide digital skills training to 100,000 university students across Saudi Arabia under an agreement with Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) Foundation.
The tie-up coincides with search company’s launch of the Maharat min Google program, aimed at helping the region’s Arabic speakers start online businesses and gain an advantage in the region’s increasingly competitive job market.
“We want the region to develop digital skills because we think they are essential in the future, and Saudi is one of the key markets in the region, that’s why we have partnership with MiSK Foundation,” Lino Cattaruzzi, Google's managing director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), told Arab News.
MiSK Foundation’s implementation of the program targets a 50 percent female participation.
“When you look at what we are trying to achieve, it’s impossible for me not to (draw a connection) with Vision 2030,” he added.
Entrepreneurship, education and training and the empowerment of women are all core to Vision 2030, unveiled by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016, which seeks to diversify and grow the country’s economy.
The Maharat min Google platform — Maharat means “skills” in Arabic — aims to enhance digital literacy among Arabic speakers in a region that is among the most youthful in the world.
The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020, 21 percent of the core skills of required for jobs within the GCC will be different to the skills needed in 2015.
The platform offers a nine-hour long certified program that covers 100 lessons in Arabic across 26 core topics, including search engine marketing, social media, e-commerce and data analysis.
“We really believe in the world needing more entrepreneurs,” Matt Brittin, Google's president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), told Arab News.
“The barrier to becoming an entrepreneur that can scale has never been lower. And the opportunity to learn and be inspired by others has never been higher.”
Google at present has around 200 million users in the MENA region, a figure it hopes to double in the next few years. The company notes with interest the rise in e-commerce in the region, which it sees as benefiting its advertising business.
“In terms of Google’s business, typically is quite aligned with the growth in e-commerce because if people can buy things online then advertising online can make more and more sense,” Brittin said.
At the present time, the company is content to work with regional partners via its MENA hub in Dubai — which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary — with an increased on-the-ground presence a distant prospect.
“We are better off working across the region through partners, through the hub that we have here (…) and that is one of the joys of having a digital model,” he said, noting that the partnership model enables the company to offer customized services to countries in the region.
“For the next 10 years ... I’d love to see more local talents at Google and I would love to see more on the ground locations…but for the moment, it’s all about working in partnership.”