Saudi woman the first in the Middle East with a PhD in AI

Saudi woman the first in the Middle East with a PhD in AI
Dr. Fatmah Baothman is the first woman in the Middle East with a PhD in Modern Artificial Intelligence. (Photo supplied)
Updated 07 March 2019

Saudi woman the first in the Middle East with a PhD in AI

Saudi woman the first in the Middle East with a PhD in AI
  • AI “It’s a never-ending science,” says Dr. Fatmah Baothman
  • The Saudi worked tirelessly to contribute to the AI community

DUBAI: Dr. Fatmah Baothman is no ordinary Saudi woman. She embodies women’s empowerment in the Kingdom, as the first woman in the Middle East with a PhD in Modern Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Her AI journey started when she was a student at the University of Arizona studying the English language. She was introduced to computer systems that help and assist non-native English speakers. 

“I was fascinated by the level of machine communication and interaction,” Dr Baothman explained. “Once I started studying programing and understanding more about the Turing Test, which is a test that’s been designed to test the intelligence of machines, I became fascinated.” 

In 2003, she graduated from the School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Huddesfield in the UK, where she earned a PhD in “Phonology-Based Automatic Speech Recognition for Arabic.” Her work was primarily focused on AI and she was exposed to forecasting, pattern recognition, phonology and phonetics, acoustics, machine learning and mathematics.

Such work can be used to connect humans to machines in speech, as well as machines to machines, and raising intelligence in robotics. “We worked with a robot and we were able to increase its intelligence from four to seven years,” she noted. “Speech is a very important tool in different applications that could be used in smart cities, smart cars and smartphones — it’s about connecting machines and people, and machines to machines, even if they don’t speak our language, they find a way of communicating in which they can interact with each other.”

Dr Baothman spoke of her fascination with machine communication. “I spent hours trying to figure out how it worked,” she said. “Once I started studying it, I started realizing and building an emotional interest towards the topic. I always had a wish to be a part of the AI community and contribute to such an important discipline.”

She became “emotionally attached” to AI, yearning to learn more. “It’s a never-ending science,” she added. “AI, generally speaking, is a growing science, and it could bring the best benefits to humanity by solving their complex problems, so it’s of interest to me.” 

Her hope is to eventually tackle different fields with AI, such as the economy, by bringing new solutions that would help solve fluctuation issues, like crises and poverty. “I believe that, very soon, AI will play an important role in that,” she noted. “I’m interested in it and I’ve already started forming a group to work on it.”

She mentioned the financial sector in Saudi Arabia, which is slowly moving towards implementing AI at different levels. “It’s very important,” she said. “I hope to see a unified strategy for AI and I also hope to contribute to it.”

Her determination is what made her reach her goals. “I was working day and night, hours on end,” she said. “My thinking was how can I contribute and add to the community in AI, how can I transfer this technology and make use of it in my country and how can I assist the new graduates, make their path easier and their learning experience better and much more improved than what I had to go through.”

The Jeddah-born woman started working as an advisor with MMG (MedLab Media Group), a Spanish technology start-up focused on improving daily clinical practice and decision-making, which signed an agreement a couple of weeks ago with Advanced AI LLC, a Saudi company specialized in AI technology and products. 

“It makes me feel very excited to be the first woman with a PhD in Modern AI,” she explained. “(We) are planning to establish an AI lab in Jeddah very soon to work in blockchain technology, AI projects and other areas, directed towards healthcare.” 

She has also been working at the King Abdulaziz University for more than 25 years as an assistant professor in computing and information technology. Although she started off her career at a managerial level, she eventually played a vital role in establishing the university’s computer science department for women and became the first appointed teaching assistant in the department. 

“It was very difficult at first and communication between men and women was hard,” Dr. Baothman said. “The internet wasn’t as it is now, and acquiring knowledge at that time was based on books only.”


Car enthusiast puts her fellow Saudi women in the driving seat

Times have changed in Saudi society and gender is no longer the barrier it once was to pursuing a career in previously male-dominated fields such as the automobile industry. (Supplied)
Times have changed in Saudi society and gender is no longer the barrier it once was to pursuing a career in previously male-dominated fields such as the automobile industry. (Supplied)
Updated 18 min 4 sec ago

Car enthusiast puts her fellow Saudi women in the driving seat

Times have changed in Saudi society and gender is no longer the barrier it once was to pursuing a career in previously male-dominated fields such as the automobile industry. (Supplied)
  • Nada Hambzaza aims to pass on what she has learned about cars to the Kingdom’s newly empowered female drivers

JEDDAH: Trying to choose the perfect car can be a confusing and intimidating experience for anyone, but especially new drivers. Dealing with the problems that come with car ownership can be even more vexing.
With a growing number of women getting behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia, one Saudi woman is on a mission to teach them what lurks under the hood so that they are better able to choose a vehicle that suits them and keep it running well.
In 2018 women in the Kingdom were officially given permission to drive, empowering many to take to the road for the first time. For many new drivers, however, trying to decide which vehicle is best can feel like a leap into the unknown, to say nothing of the stress and confusion when basic mechanical problems arise.
Nada Hambzaza, a public relations manager at an automotive and marketing agency in Jeddah, grew up with a love of cars and decided she wanted to learn how they work. This ultimately inspired her to launch a YouTube channel to teach other women about cars, and now she plans to take the next step by providing some basic lessons on maintenance and repairs.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In 2018 women in the Kingdom were officially given permission to drive, empowering many to take to the road for the first time. For many new drivers, however, trying to decide which vehicle is best can feel like a leap into the unknown, to say nothing of the stress and confusion when basic mechanical problems arise.

• Nada Hambzaza’s YouTube channel, the Arabic name of which translates as ‘for safer driving,’ provides content in Arabic for an Arab audience.

• Hambazaza has more than 15 years of experience working in office management and public relations. She said her mission with her YouTube channel is to ensure women are capable of looking after their vehicles themselves without needing any help for basic maintenance.

“I have had a passion for cars since I was a kid,” she told Arab News. “I used to see my family members taking care of their cars and I spent a lot of time with them. So I understand more than most females, at least in the terminologies related to cars.

Nada Hambzaza launched a YouTube channel to teach other women about cars, and now she plans to provide some basic lessons on maintenance and repairs. (Supplied)

“Learning is a nonstop journey; I always keep educating myself through web searches and watching related material to advance my knowledge.”
Hambzaza’s YouTube channel, the Arabic name of which translates as “for safer driving,” provides content in Arabic for an Arab audience.
“I’m not by any means a mechanic but I know basic maintenance,” she said. “Different people have different thoughts — you don’t have to physically work on the car yourself, but at least gain the knowledge and delegate the physical work to a specialist.
“You can be sure that there are some tasks that can be done easily by yourself without the need for a mechanic’s help; just a little knowledge can get the job done.”
Hambazaza has more than 15 years of experience working in office management and public relations. She said her mission with her YouTube channel is to ensure women are capable of looking after their vehicles themselves without needing any help for basic maintenance.

Learning is a nonstop journey; I always keep educating myself through web searches and watching related material to advance my knowledge.

Nada Hambzaza

“The main purpose of the program is to spread awareness, mainly to new drivers, so that they get to know more about their vehicle, the main parts and how they are structured, in addition to knowing how to handle certain situations,” she explained. In addition, viewers can send their questions about specific scenarios or issues for Hambazaza to answer.
Her short videos aim to be informative and easy to understand, she said, and to provide Saudi women with information in a simple and engaging way that will appeal to new and experienced drivers alike who might lack important, basic knowledge that could make their motoring lives easier.
In addition to the backing of her husband and family, Hambazaza said she has received support and positive feedback from other people, which helped ease her initial fears about how her videos would be received.
“I was a bit nervous in the beginning, thinking I would receive tons of comments about how girls can’t work on cars,” she said. “But the overall reaction has been very supportive and my close circle of friends and family is pushing me to do more and encouraging me to continue.”
Times have changed in Saudi society and gender is no longer the barrier it once was to pursuing a career in previously male-dominated fields such as the automobile industry.
“Underestimating women getting into this field is no longer applicable to today’s world,” Hambazaza said. She encouraged girls and young women always to pursue their passions, and added that if they find their dream job in the automotive industry “don’t allow anything to pull you back — follow your dreams.”


Special needs pilgrims completed Hajj with ease

The 17 special needs pilgrims performed Hajj during this season. (Supplied)
The 17 special needs pilgrims performed Hajj during this season. (Supplied)
Updated 35 min 26 sec ago

Special needs pilgrims completed Hajj with ease

The 17 special needs pilgrims performed Hajj during this season. (Supplied)
  • The transportation process between the holy sites was perfect

MAKKAH: Special needs pilgrims in the Kingdom performing Hajj have received continued support for years, and this year was no exception.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with Harakiya Adults Motor Disability Association, managed to help 17 adults from the association to perform Hajj during this season through a fully equipped campaign that took into account their health conditions, to assure an easy and comfortable experience.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is keen to enable the disabled to perform their pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam. The deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulfattah Mashat, has given the matter special care personally, conducting inspection visits to the disabled Hajj camp in Muzdalifah to reassure and listen to the suggestions of people there.
The 17 special needs Saudi pilgrims’ disabilities range from paraplegics to polio survivors, from different areas including Riyadh, Jouf, Dammam, Dawadmi, Madinah, Asir, Qassim, the Eastern Province, Hail, and Taif.
Majed Al-Soraya, director of the Campaign Beneficiaries Services Department, who suffers from a motor disability, told Arab News: “Selecting candidates was based on many conditions, including that the beneficiary had never performed Hajj before.
“Participation was limited to persons with motor disabilities who could rely on themselves, and were immunized with (a coronavirus disease vaccine) second dose,” he added.
Al-Soraya also mentioned the ministry’s readiness to offer pilgrims with motor disabilities a comfortable stay and fully equipped transpiration. “Technical inspection and maintenance procedures were carried out as a preparation stage. We made sure to prepare travel medical supplies, first aid, Ihrams, and pilgrims’ needs. We also made preparations to ensure a well-equipped secure residence in Mina.”
One of the participants, Abdullah Alraishan, a paraplegic whose condition was caused by a car accident in 2011, told Arab News: “To be honest, I was not expecting a chance to perform Hajj this year. It is an unexpected feeling. I’m really speechless; everything was well organized. Indeed, all sectors have made an exceptional effort.
“Being a person with disabilities, I found very comprehensive access, care, and attention by the campaign. The transportation process between the holy sites was perfect. Thanks to our government, security sectors, and to everyone who worked on such an initiative for people with disabilities.”
Khalid Al-Hajjri, 38, has had a movement disability since birth. He told Arab News that he decided to participate in this year’s Hajj because it was an irreplaceable opportunity, in light of the small numbers, organization and precautions in place.
“The experience of Hajj this year was wonderful, full of spirituality and indescribable feelings,” he said. “The movement between the holy sites was carried out with ease (with) the well-equipped cars, the sufficient number of organizers and the integrated coordination with all sectors.”
Naji Al-Fahiqi, 43, who also suffers from a movement disability caused by poliomyelitis said that he was not expecting to get the opportunity to participate in this year’s Hajj. “I was lucky enough and blessed to be among (the) pilgrims this year,” he said.


King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides

King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides
Updated 24 July 2021

King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides

King Salman sends cable of condolences to Indian president after landslides
  • King Salman expressed his wishes that the missing would return safely
  • Torrential downpours have lashed India’s western coast in recent days, sparking landslides near Mumbai

RIYADH: King Salman sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to the president of India after 119 people died in monsoon-triggered landslides and building collapses.
More than 135,000 people have been evacuated and dozens are still missing.
In the cable to Ram Nath Kovind, the king said “We share the pain of this affliction with you and we send you, the families of the deceased and your people, our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”
He also expressed his wishes that the missing would return safely.
Torrential downpours have lashed India’s western coast in recent days, sparking landslides near the financial capital Mumbai and causing the worst floods in decades in the resort state of Goa.


Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 July 2021

Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys 3 Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed three Houthi drones launched toward southern Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Houthi militia continues its aggression by trying to target civilians and civilian objects, the coalition said.

The coalition is taking operational measures to protect civilians from Houthi hostilities, it added.


Ancient rock art in Hima listed as Saudi Arabia’s sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site

The site at Hima, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world and ancient wells. (SPA)
The site at Hima, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world and ancient wells. (SPA)
Updated 24 July 2021

Ancient rock art in Hima listed as Saudi Arabia’s sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site

The site at Hima, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world and ancient wells. (SPA)
  • Hima was a conduit for caravans on the trade and Hajj routes going to and from the southern parts of Arabia
  • People who passed through the area between pre- and post-historic times have left behind a substantial collection of rock art

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s cultural rock art in Hima, Najran, has been officially recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The decision was made during the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee being held in Fuzho, China.

The site, the sixth to be enlisted in Saudi Arabia, is home to one of the largest rock art complexes in the world.

Located in southwestern Saudi Arabia, Hima was a conduit for caravans on the trade and Hajj routes going to and from the southern parts of Arabia, to the ancient world markets of the rest of Arabia, Mesopotamia, the Levant and Egypt.

People who passed through the area between pre- and post-historic times have left behind a substantial collection of rock art depicting hunting, wildlife, plants, symbols, and tools used at the time, as well as thousands of inscriptions written in several ancient scripts, including Musnad, Thamudic, Nabataean and early Arabic.

The wells on the site date back more than 3,000 years and were considered a vital source of fresh water in the vast desert of Najran. They still serve fresh water to this day.

“We are thrilled to have this exceptional ancient site recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area has outstanding universal value, providing us with many lessons about the evolution of human culture and life in ancient times,” said Dr. Jasir Alherbish, CEO of the Heritage Commission.

“We are working to preserve the area and conduct research to further understand the rock inscriptions, and are looking forward to welcoming more local and international visitors to come and see this historic cultural site for themselves.”

The preservation and protection of the Kingdom's cultural and natural heritage is a key part of the Kingdom's 2030 Vision.

Overseen by the Heritage Commission, a raft of new discoveries has cemented the country’s reputation as a go-to destination for archeologists, historians and scientists looking to understand human history across the region.

Last year, the Commission announced one of the Kingdom's most ground-breaking discoveries – ancient human and animal footprints, dating back more than 120,000 years, in Tabuk, marking the first evidence of human life on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Kingdom has also taken serious measures toward protecting national and international heritage. In 2019, the Ministry of Culture signed a Memorandum of Understating with UNESCO to contribute $25 million to the organization’s strategy for the preservation of heritage worldwide.