Major Saudi internet and cybersecurity conference gets underway

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Visitors at the IoT-CDS Conference in Riyadh. AN photo by Khaleed Alkhamees
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Abdullah Al-Sawaha, Saudi minister of communications and information technology, will launch the forum on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 14 February 2019

Major Saudi internet and cybersecurity conference gets underway

  • The summit follows the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 launched by Saudi Arabia
  • The flagship event will highlight the growth and development of online technologies in the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major Saudi conference showcasing the latest advances in internet technology on Wednesday got underway in Riyadh.

The three-day Saudi International Exhibition and Conference for Internet of Things (Saudi IoT 2019), was opened by the Kingdom’s Minister of Telecommunication and IT Abdullah Al-Sawaha.

The event, now in its second year, is also hosting the Cyber Defense Summit (CDS) which aims to develop solutions to tackle the digital security challenges facing the country. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Al-Sawaha said Saudi IoT 2019 offered an ideal platform for entrepreneurs and businesses to share ideas and promote the digital sector.

Under this year’s theme titled “Redefining Communications,” the flagship event will highlight the growth and development of online technologies in the Kingdom.

Thousands of visitors from the Middle East and around the world are expected to attend the event being held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, along with 300 local, regional and global companies and more than 50 speakers.

Al-Sawaha said Saudi IoT 2019 played an important role in pushing forward the process of digital transformation in the Kingdom in line with the country’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

The minister added that the conference offered a unique interactive forum for those interested in emerging technologies including government, the private sector, internet specialists, entrepreneurs and investors.

The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Telecommunication and IT,  in cooperation with its partners had, said Al-Sawaha, made significant strides in the sector toward enhancing the Kingdom’s technical and digital status worldwide.

Working with the private sector, the ministry has played a key part in upgrading and expanding broadband services throughout the country, he added, while in partnership with the telecommunications equipment company Huawei, also launched the Kingdom’s first IoT lab with a fund of $1 million to support Saudi entrepreneurs.

Al-Sawaha announced that a campaign to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in emerging digital technologies would be launched soon.

Over recent years the ministry has run numerous IT awareness programs to support economic diversification, and more initiatives were in the pipeline, Al-Swaha added.

Speakers at Saudi IoT 2019 will share their experiences and scientific research findings, while explaining how communications technology can be applied to many areas of life.

IT experts will be running skills workshops at the event and a live show area will feature demonstrations of the very latest IoT technologies.

The CDS side of the event will feature more than 600 industry leaders in cybersecurity, along with over 50 speakers and at least 30 solution providers. There will also be an expo on cutting-edge cyber-security solutions.

Sectors being represented include government, defense forces, banking, financial services and insurance, energy and utilities, manufacturing, retail and supply, hospitals, universities, diversified conglomerates, real estate and construction.

Organized by the New Horizon for Conferences and Exhibition, the event represents a practical response to the National Digital Transformation Program 2020, launched as one of the key Vision 2030 projects.


A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

Updated 19 October 2019

A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

  • Rihab Hasanain set up Blooming Bs to provide schoolchildren with healthy meals
  • Blooming Bs strives to raise awareness of the obesity problem in the Kingdom

CAIRO: One Saudi woman was so concerned about her children’s unhealthy school-canteen meals that she decided to improve not only her family’s diet but also the eating habits of the entire nation.

Rihab Hasanain, spurred by the Kingdom’s growing obesity epidemic, set up the catering firm Blooming Bs to provide children with healthy lunch boxes and offer them advice on the importance of eating healthy food and being active.

The company’s name originates from the three Bs: Brain, body and box. The healthy boxes are provided to students and children aged two and above at schools, canteens, childcare centers and indoor playground centers.

Saudi Arabia has the Middle East’s second-highest obesity level after Kuwait with a 35.4 percent rating,  according to the CIA World Factbook.

Hasanain said that she wants to raise awareness of the region’s obesity problem, particularly among children.

“Childhood obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing health care systems worldwide,” she said.

“A number of factors have contributed to the problem, such as lack of childhood physical activities, and a low awareness around the prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

Hasanain said that Blooming Bs’ mission is to combat childhood obesity in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by promoting healthy eating habits.

Rihab Hasanain

This includes educating children and parents about the importance of healthy food and lifestyles, providing youngsters with healthy food choices, and creating a community of future healthy eaters.

In Saudi Arabia, a major contributing factor to the obesity crisis is the widespread availability of unhealthy food in school canteens, she said.

In 2016, the ambitious mother of two took matters into her own hands by establishing her commercial kitchen in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh.

Using her personal savings, Hasanain hired a team of 10 multidisciplinary women, including public relations and administration staff, social-work specialists, early childhood educators and drivers.

She also leveraged her international connections to help secure support and endorsement from a number of prominent mentors.

“They are extraordinary individuals with an outstanding track record in social entrepreneurship, hospitality and, most importantly, health promotion and healthy school canteens,” Hasanain said.

Blooming Bs has since grown to cater to more than 20 day-care units and schools, as well as hundreds of individual families. The firm has now sold more than 45,000 items and served over 10,000 lunch meals since its launch.

Hasanain said that the company’s contracts and deliveries vary according to customer categories.

“Our products range from morning, lunch and afternoon meals for children to freshly squeezed juices and individual food items that can be sold individually at school canteens,” she said.

“We take the stress away for parents. Our clients are assured that our products are healthy because the meals are created based on the consultation of our in-house nutritionist.”

While Hasanain is well on her way to transforming the diets of children in Riyadh, she has her eye on the bigger picture.

The Blooming Bs entrepreneur also aims to solve childhood obesity in neighboring countries, such as the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

“During Blooming Bs’ expansion, I have tried to develop a holistic viewpoint on children’s nutrition, leading to improved operation processes and ideas,” Hasanain said.

“Blooming Bs also wants to empower Saudi and Arab women by creating more job opportunities,” she added.

“Ultimately, I see my company becoming an upscale international brand, trusted by parents, schools and governments.”

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• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.