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.”

Saudi figure skater nurtures Olympic dream

Malak Al-Shaya says when in the ice rink everything feels ‘magical’ around her. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 04 August 2020

Saudi figure skater nurtures Olympic dream

  • The 13-year-old hopes to emulate the Russian figure skaters Elena Radionova and Alexandra Trusova

JEDDAH: A Saudi teen who picked up ice skating three years ago at a friend’s birthday party is now dreaming of taking part in the Olympic Games.

“It all started at my friend’s birthday party three years ago where we ice skated and I fell in love with the sport. I started going every day after that. My mom signed me up for classes when she saw my love for the sport,” Malak Al-Shaya told Arab News.
She said: “My mom was the one that encouraged me. At that birthday party, my mom and the coach said I was a natural because I just went for it.”
She came 4th at the Houston Invitational 2020 in March. She said that she will work harder next year to win first place.
The 13-year-old hopes to emulate the Russian figure skaters Elena Radionova and Alexandra Trusova who inspired her and even to get to the Olympics.
“I’ll work on ice and off ice. I want to be like Alexandra Trusova, who makes it look so elegant,” she said.

Gliding on the ice, Al-Shaya said she feels like everything is “magical.”
The young figure skater is aware that the sport is not the most popular in the Kingdom, but she encourages those wishing to master it.
“Just go for it. If you are willing to work hard you can achieve anything,” she said.
She has received a lot of encouragement on social media to pursue her passion in figure skating.
Al-Shaya’s mother, Eman Al-Damegh, shared her daughter’s love story. “At that birthday party, it was the first time Malak ever ice skated. After that, my kids used to ask me to take them ice skating every day,” she said.


• Malak Al-Shaya won 4th place at the Houston Invitational 2020.

• Al-Shaya started ice skating three years ago.

• The teen’s coach says her speed is impressive, and it takes them years to teach a student to reach the speed that she is naturally able to control comfortably.

She said that her daughter came from a background, which lacked the facilities for the sport, but was “a natural” straightaway.
“She had never been ice skating before, she started it at such a young age. We used to live in Qassim where there were no ice skating arenas at all,” said Al-Damegh.
She added: “The moment Malak set foot inside the rink, she just took off. I was so surprised, she didn’t hesitate at all, she was so daring that day. And there I was wondering what would happen on ice (before she started).”
According to her proud mother, Al-Shaya has all the capabilities required for this sport and possesses the sense of daringness that skating requires.
The teen’s coach told Al-Damegh that her daughter’s speed was impressive, adding that it takes them years to teach a student to reach the speed that she is “naturally able to control comfortably.”