Saudi Arabia praised for keeping millions connected during Hajj

A policeman helps a pilgrim capture a souvenir photo at Arafat. (File/AN photo/Ahmad Hasshad)
Updated 02 August 2019

Saudi Arabia praised for keeping millions connected during Hajj

  • “the work the government has to do here in the Kingdom on the connectivity side when there is Hajj is amazing,” says expert

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) have been praised for their efforts to improve the Hajj experience through the use of technology.

A senior official from the Internet Society, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the internet, congratulated the ministry and the industry regulator for the incredible achievement of providing reliable connectivity to the millions of pilgrims who visit the country each year.

Speaking to Arab News Jane Coffin, senior adviser to the CEO and president of the Internet Society, said: “One thing that is fascinating about the ministry and the regulator, the CITC, is that the work the government has to do here in the Kingdom on the connectivity side when there is Hajj is amazing.

“They have a lot of people coming in and they have worked to ensure total readiness to help with the connectivity ... which is impressive.”

       Jane Coffin

More than 2 million people visit Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj each year and Coffin said a huge amount of work is needed to ensure reliable connectivity for such a large number. People not only use their phones for data, text messages and instant messaging but they also take and share photos and videos, she noted.

“The burden on the network to deliver that traffic is immense,” she said. “It is an amazing achievement by the ministry and the regulator.”

Coffin is responsible for development strategy at the Internet Society, where her work focuses on coordination of collaborative strategies for expanding internet infrastructure, access and related capacities in emerging economies.

She was visiting Riyadh for an event, organized by the society and ministry, focusing on best practices for a vibrant digital environment. She said that it included discussions of internet safety and internet exchange points (IXP), the physical infrastructure through which traffic passes from one network to another, which are an integral part of the global internet infrastructure.

“We do workshops like this and work with the communities all over the region,” she added. “To bring in more internet connectivity to help with the IXP, that was the part of reason we were here.

“We are trying to help make the internet cheaper, better and faster here and create a more level playing field for everybody.”

Coffin also praised the ongoing program of reforms in support of Saudi Vision 2030, and highlighted the role of digital transformation as part of the process.

“I am sure they will carry out the mission; Vision 2030 is very impressive and it means that the Kingdom is thinking of moving in another direction, which is very important for development including literacy, business and the health sector, because connectivity underpins everything.”

She also pointed out that Riyadh will host the 15th G20 summit next year, which also represents another major boost to digital transformation in the country.

Regarding the potential for future cooperation and partnerships with the Saudi ministry, she said that while there are currently no specific plans to work together, “we are definitely talking to them more about what we can do.”

Oil coup for Saudi Arabia as output cuts are extended

Updated 06 June 2020

Oil coup for Saudi Arabia as output cuts are extended

  • ‘Compliance is vital,’ Prince Abdul Aziz says

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia pulled off a coup in the world of oil diplomacy on Saturday with an agreement to extend the historic output cuts credited with pulling energy markets out of chaos.

At a virtual meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producersled by Russia, 23 exporters agreed to roll over the record-breaking cuts until the end of July, with a monthly option to renew the agreement after that.

The deal has strict provisions against producers who fail to comply. Some countries, notably Iraq and Nigeria, have been accused of ignoring the agreed caps on crude production.

“Effective compliance is vital if we are to secure the hard-won stability in global oil markets and restore confidence in the unity and effectiveness of the OPEC+ group,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, the Saudi Energy Minister. “This stability and positive market sentiment will bring its own rewards.”

OPEC+ agreed unanimously that countries that have fallen short of full compliance since May 1 will make up that shortfall over the summer months and will adhere to production limits in the future.

Compliance will be assessed at monthly ministerial monitoring meetings until the end of the year. “We must be vigilant. Each of the 23 countries represented here must be on guard for any signs of backsliding from their commitments,” Prince Abdul Aziz said.

“All OPEC+ partners must deliver on their pledges for the collective pledges to be sustained. Each country has to adhere to its commitment to restrain production along the agreed guidelines.”

The minister referred to the recent “low point” when American crude briefly traded below zero, but said the OPEC+ deal, bolstered by extra voluntary cuts from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, had helped the global market over the worst.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, has more than doubled in price since the cuts took effect. “Demand is returning as big oil-consuming economies emerge from pandemic lockdown,” Prince Abdul Aziz said. “Through our commitment to a proactive policy, within a cohesive and collective framework, we are restoring confidence and stability to global oil markets. Today, we have grounds to be cautiously optimistic about the future.”

Energy experts welcomed the deal, but echoed the minister’s caution. “This is an important success for OPEC+. It shows ability to deliver, willingness to address discipline, and coherence in the approach,” saidChristof Ruehl of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

“The problem is that the more OPEC+ succeeds, the easier it becomes for private producers to enjoy the fruits of its labor.”