New project aims to transform Saudi Arabia through technology

Meraab targets talented Saudi students in Jeddah and Riyadh who are excited about creating better technology. (Photo/Supplied) 
Updated 06 May 2019

New project aims to transform Saudi Arabia through technology

  • Future generations will have new careers related to 4IR and they should be ready to deal with within the next 10 years
  • Network brings together talented young people Robots, blockchain, artificial intelligence on the agenda

JEDDAH: Global Shapers Jeddah, a network of young people working together to address local and international challenges, held an event about the future of technology on Saturday.
The workshops and talks focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) — artificial intelligence, blockchain, robots, 3D-printing and the internet of things.
The event was the launchpad for Meraab, a new initiative to serve Saudi society through technology.
Hassan Gady, who helped found Meraab, said the initiative was designed to bring together young people and equip them with skills for the next decade.
“We try to gather people who have a common interest, which is future technology, and are passionate about programming skills in business under one roof,” he told Arab News.
Meraab targets talented Saudi students in Jeddah and Riyadh, aged from 16 to 30, who are excited about creating better technology.
“We will focus mainly on the Fourth Industrial Revolution ... 12 meetings will be held during the year. Each meeting will discuss a topic related to one future technology including energy, medicine, outer space, technology, education, health and water. In our community, we need to redirect youth interests toward outer space and we will do this through Meraab because it is the future,” he added.
Gady said he was looking for ambitious and bold young people, people who were ready to improve Saudi Arabia. “I don’t want people to come, listen and go. I want those who will listen, discuss and give suggestions.”
Meraab has a partnership with Popular Science, one of the world’s oldest science magazines.
A monthly report will be published on the magazine’s website about the outcomes of Meraab meetings.
Meraab will also soon announce a partnership with the Saudi Federation for Cyber Security, Programming and Drones.Future jobs need new skills
Future generations will have new careers related to 4IR and they should be ready to deal with within the next 10 years.
According to the World Economic Forum, approximately 65 percent of future jobs that will be occupied by the current primary school intake do not exist.
Hani Shodary, from King Abdulaziz University, said educational outputs needed to be adjusted for the changing labor market. He said work was being done to prepare students for future technology and careers.
“We are focusing a lot on enhancing and improving the skills that will help prepare students for future jobs ... we see what skills are needed in our labor market through studies predicting the future and, based on that, we develop certain academic programs,” Shodary told Arab News.
“Currently we are focusing on developing skills for the 21st century, that should be there in all students — the skills needed for 4IR careers. In 2030 there will be many new jobs that do not exist now, and thus students of today should be ready for them, and the technologies needed to do them.”
Raghad Alattas, from the Jeddah hub of Global Shapers, said the network was in a position to influence technology and the future of jobs.
She said that influence would come through leveraging the network’s links with the World Economic Forum and sharing that information and knowledge with the wider community.
“Awareness is a key component in order to expedite the process and make it real,” she told Arab News.


Life getting back to normal as restaurants, coffee shops reopen across KSA

It is also mandatory for restaurants and coffee shops to check the temperature of customers, and ensure a space of at least 1.5 meters between them. (AN photo by Fahad Al-Zahrani)
Updated 01 June 2020

Life getting back to normal as restaurants, coffee shops reopen across KSA

  • The government has laid out rules and regulations for employees returning to work in the state and private sectors

RIYADH: Restaurants and coffee shops in Saudi Arabia have reopened their dine-in sections to customers after more than two months of closure as a part of the lockdown imposed by the government to limit the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The reopening comes as a part of the second phase of a government plan, announced on May 26, to resume economic activity and gradually return to normal.
The second phase reduces the curfew and increases time allowed for people to venture out to 14 hours a day, and permitted the resumption of domestic flights.
Arab News toured different neighborhoods in Riyadh, and noticed a large number of people meeting their families and friends in restaurants and coffee shops. Most of them adhered to the government’s regulations of social distancing and were wearing face masks.
Siham Hassanain, CEO and founder of Siham International Trading Co. that owns and operates a chain of restaurants and coffee shops, said that she had not expected such a huge number of people to show up.
 “People want to go out, yet the coronavirus still exists. It still poses a danger and is still spreading.”
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural affairs posted a series of tweets regarding the protocol that restaurants and coffee shops should follow.
As per the protocol, they are obliged to limit the maximum number of clients who can sit at a table to 5 people unless members of one family. It is also mandatory for restaurants and coffee shops to check the temperature of customers, and ensure a space of at least 1.5 meters between them.
The regulations also advise food providers to use disposable items to serve food such as paper or plastic cups and dishes as well as electronic food menus. It also restricts some practices that may contribute to the spread of the virus such as serving Shisha or opening children’s playing areas in shops.
Hassanain said that most people were complying with government instructions, and most of the violations had come from teenagers and young adults.
Riham Ahmed, a 23-year-old student from Riyadh, said she chose to have her lunch with her friends in a restaurant despite fears expressed by her family.
“I’m taking all the preventive measures, putting (on) my face mask and staying away from crowded places, but I have to meet people and go outside, I can’t afford more time of isolation at home,” she said.
The government has also laid out rules and regulations for employees returning to work in the state and private sectors. For the time being, offices are not to be filled to capacity, with only 30 percent of employees allowed to occupy them at any given time, and those in offices must have their temperatures checked prior to entering the building.
The rules also state that handshakes are banned, face masks must be worn at all times, and employees must use sanitizer to wash their hands regularly throughout the day. Furthermore, employees with preexisting health conditions such as immune deficiencies, asthma or respiratory problems, or the morbidly obese, are all exempt from returning to work.

FASTFACT

The reopening comes as a part of the second phase of a government plan, announced on May 26, to resume economic activity and gradually return to normal.

The ministry also recommends that digital means be relied on as much as possible in order to minimize contact and try to prevent people from returning to their offices unless necessary. The full list of regulations is available on the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development’s website.
Sarah S, a government employee, told Arab News that she had gone back to work but that she was not sure how much she liked the environment. “The office was mostly empty, and it felt wrong. Like when you stay late on a Thursday or come in on a weekend. It’s very eerie and a little unsettling to see so many empty desks,” she said.
She added that while the office was taking every precaution, people were still cautious about the reopening and a constant sense of apprehension still filled the office.
“Everyone is on edge. It will take a lot of time for us to readjust to the idea of being in an office. Things that seemed so normal and mundane before, like handshakes, or sharing files, are all causes for concern now,” she said. However, some employees, who are still working from home, feel the opposite way and wish that they could be in the office instead.
Nawaf M, a human resources employee at a private company in Riyadh, said that everyone from his department was still working from home, but he would prefer to be in the office.
“I don’t like working from home. I feel like the office atmosphere is so important to maintaining a sense of professionalism and producing results,” he said.
While he realized that the threat of the coronavirus is still strong, he said that practicing good “pandemic etiquette” would ensure his safety and allow life to regain some normality again.