The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming to the Middle East

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming to the Middle East
While the Third Industrial Revolution used technology to automate production, the Fourth one will overhaul the national economy and create alternative sources of revenue. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 February 2020

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming to the Middle East

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming to the Middle East
  • Riyadh to host a Middle East-focused special meeting of the World Economic Forum in April
  • A Saudi center of the WEF's C4IR network will help shape the development of advanced technologies

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will soon be the host of one of the most prestigious institutions at the heart of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) effort to shape the development and application of emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity. 

The Saudi branch of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) — a network of technology-governance hubs and affiliate centers — will be the outcome of an agreement reached late last year between the Kingdom and the Swiss-based non-profit organization. 

The agreement heralds a new era of cooperation between the WEF and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), supported by the Saudi Center for International Strategic Partnerships (SCISP). 

At the 50th annual WEF meeting in Davos, it was also announced that a conference on “the Middle East in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” would be convened in Riyadh on April 5-6.

The WEF’s website says: “Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency in 2020, the first time an Arab and Middle East country has such a mandate, presents a unique opportunity for the entire region to take a global view of its future.”

4IRTECH

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
  • Autonomous and Urban Mobility.
  • Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology. Data Policy.and digital trade, plus drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace.
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth.
  • Internet of Things, Robotics and Smart Cities; and precision medicine.

The April meeting is billed as “a crucial opportunity to rise above the fog of geopolitical uncertainty and the gravitational forces of legacy conflicts and scale up the efforts of the region’s outstanding thinkers and practitioners who are committed to a can-do, positive agenda for the region and its people.”

In a 2015 essay in the magazine Foreign Affairs the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, had defined the 4IR thus: “The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. 

“Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third … It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” 

Muhammad Khurram Khan, CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research in Washington, said the decision to establish a 4IR center in Saudi Arabia demonstrated the leadership’s commitment, in line with its National Transformation Plan (NTP) and Saudi Vision 2030, to “developing effective solutions to the challenges faced by organizations, while creating capacity and capability in the Kingdom.” 




Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah greets WEF founder Klaus Schwab in Riyadh on Wednesday. (SPA)

According to Khan: “Governments around the world are investing heavily in cutting-edge and emerging technologies to boost gross domestic product and diversify their economy. 

“The 4IR could help governments and organizations to drive economic development, competitiveness and social progress.” 

“This will help overhaul the national economy by investing in modern technologies to create alternative sources of revenue, as well as new jobs and opportunities.” 

The Saudi government has said KACST will manage the affiliate center in cooperation with the WEF, providing space for the development of 4IR mechanisms, plans and applications in the Kingdom. 

It is also expected to “contribute to the adoption of technology and best practices in the region and the world, reinforcing the directives of the leadership and harnessing the tools provided by the 4IR to serve the Kingdom.” 

The C4IR network, which is headquartered in San Francisco, currently has hubs in India, China and Japan,  in addition to the affiliate centers. 

The network “brings together governments, business organizations, dynamic startups, civil society, academia and international organizations from around the world to work together across nine emerging technology areas,” including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, autonomous mobility, data policy, drones, the Internet of Things (IoT) robotics, and smart cities. 

Furthermore, C4IR partners can send fellows to any of the four main hubs or affiliate centers, thus enabling a continuous exchange of insights and knowledge sharing. 

“Having such a center is very important to Saudi Arabia, given the heightened levels of tensions as well as recent attacks on the Aramco pipeline,” said Matthew Cochran, CEO and co-founder of URS Laboratories in the UAE. 

By virtue of its location, the center will facilitate customized solutions based on real-world requirements that are different for Saudi Arabia to other places in the world, he said. 

Citing the September 2019 drone strikes on Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, and the many cyber-attacks on the Kingdom in the past, Cochran said: “The 4IR and the ability for countries and governments to react quickly is a challenge globally. 

“Saudi Arabia has shown, especially in the past 12 months, that they are willing to change and adapt their responses to threat levels with new ways of protecting their assets. 

“It must be a coordinated approach across all government agencies and, just as in the US, we have an increasing landscape of commercial security working with government security to protect vital assets.” 

That being said, Cochran expects the C4IR’s Saudi center to face challenges similar to what many other technology-governance institutions are grappling with. 

“As AI and machine learning become faster and better, we will have machines talking to robots and robots speaking to unmanned vehicles, in the air, on sea and land,” he said. 

“The potential challenges will be, in some ways, simply setting up the ability for those machines, robots and vehicles to deliver their requirement safely, with humans either in the middle or as the end-user.” 

As a host government, Saudi Arabia will be expected to commit to supporting and advancing the development and deployment of pilot frameworks on topics aligned with projects launched by the C4IR network, according to the WEF’s website. 

“The Kingdom’s participation in this global initiative of the WEF is a golden opportunity for extending economic relations, exploring investment prospects and learning from — and sharing experiences with — industrially developed countries,” Khan said. 

“The local center can cooperate with various public and private-sector organizations, international institutions, civil society, and think-tanks to develop innovative approaches and shape policies for the governance and utilization of 4IR technologies.

 “The objective would be to maximize benefits and minimize risks for the benefit of local as well as global actors.” 

Khan said the main challenge for the Saudi C4IR center would be the shortage of high-tech skills and talent needed to develop, implement and scale up what the WEF calls “agile and human-centered pilot projects that can be adopted by policy-makers, legislators and regulators worldwide.” 

“The public and private sectors in the Kingdom need to come forward, establish training, education, research and innovation programs and invest in human capital to meet the demands of this revolution,” he said. 

“The challenges and opportunities of the 4IR are global in scope, have cross-industry impact and require multi-actor cooperation.”


8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Updated 09 March 2021

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • 236 mosques have closed temporarily in last 29 days
  • 224 of them have so far reopened after sterilization

RIYADH: Saudi authorities temporarily closed eight mosques in three regions of Saudi Arabia on Monday, after 10 worshipers tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance said that 236 mosques have been closed in the past 29 days. Of those, 224 reopened after they were sterilized and steps were taken to ensure public safety.
Six of the mosques closed on Monday are in Riyadh, one is in Madinah and one in Tabuk, the ministry said. It added that six previously closed mosques have reopened in Makkah, Qassim and the Eastern Province after precautionary sterilization and maintenance.
The ministry called on worshipers and mosque officials to abide by all precautionary measures and report any violations or problems applying health protocols.


Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles
Participants including Saudi women attend a hackathon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles
  • Saudi Arabia's investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union

JEDDAH: Saudi women’s participation rate in the communications and IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021, an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said.
“Due to several initiatives, that percentage has surpassed that of Silicon Valley, which is currently at 17 percent,” Bandar Al-Duwais, MCIT’s director of future recruitments, said during the Women Enablement Summit.
After a recent surge in spending on women’s training, Saudi women currently make up 40 percent of digital entrepreneurs, he added.
Dr. Hala Al-Tuwaijri, head of G20 Women’s Empowerment team, said that during the Kingdom’s presidency, Saudi Arabia had three central focuses: Human empowerment, the earth’s sustainability and implementing new horizons.
“Women’s empowerment was at the core of all of them,” she said.
The Kingdom’s investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union.

FASTFACT

• Saudi women’s participation rate in the IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021.

Basmah Al-Jedai, general manager of the Center of Strategic Studies at the National Cybersecurity Authority, said that women took greater advantage of the authority’s training programs than men did.
The National Academy for Cybersecurity’s scholarship program, which offered students scholarships to esteemed institutes globally, has attracted 67 percent of female applicants.
Another initiative, Cyber Pro, which focuses on building a cybersecurity workforce in the Kingdom, has seen 62 percent of female participants.
Based on the Kingdom’s goal of increasing women’s participation in the labor market and the ministry’s strategy, which gives priority to enhancing the role of women in the sector, MCIT developed an integrated program to empower women in the communications and information technology sector.


Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi. (SPA)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
  • Al-Qasabi says initiative will help achieve Vision 2030 goals

RIYADH: A program to encourage Saudi women to join the accounting profession was launched on Monday by Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The program is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA).
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi was also present at the launch event.
Describing the accounting profession as the “backbone of any company,” Al-Qasabi said the industry is “instrumental” in the national economy.
The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams. It is part of Saudi government efforts to empower women and increase their participation in the national economy.
“Women today have strong will, determination and ambition to succeed in all fields, especially accounting, which requires precision, analysis and vitality. Saudi women possess all these qualities,” Al-Qasabi said.
“The program will enhance women’s role in improving the profession and help achieve the goals of Vision 2030.”
The minister said that there are 140 SOCPA-certified female accountants in the Kingdom. He added that SOCPA has cooperated with Saudi universities to help more than 10,000 accounting students benefit from programs and initiatives.
SOCPA Secretary-General Dr. Ahmed Al-Maghamis told Arab News that the organization will sign multiple agreements with the private sector to help promote accounting as a profession for Saudis.
He said that SOCPA aims to fill 20,000 auditing and accounting jobs by 2022.
The new women’s accounting program also doubles up as an initiative to increase the number of Saudi accountants and enable economic sectors to receive better access accounting and auditing services, he added.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams.

• It is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants.

“The program aims to develop the skills of Saudi women and allow them to participate in SOCPA council and committees,” Al-Maghamis said.
SOCPA is also working to establish a center to support small and medium enterprises. The women’s program includes several initiatives, such as a volunteer club and accounting leaderships, the empowerment platform and the women’s council, he said.
Dr. Ghuraibah Al-Twaiher, chairperson of the Future Women Society, said that promoting women and helping them achieve professional success is necessary for future economic growth.
“Vision 2030 recognizes the key role of women in the development process and calls for greater participation of women to build a vital society,” she said.
In line with the Future Women Society’s mission to enhance women’s integrated economic value locally and internationally, the society recently signed an agreement with the Saudi Financials Association (SFA), Al-Twaiher said.
“The society aims to enable, develop and empower women’s career and professional skills. The SFA increases public awareness of the financial and accounting industries and also contributes to the development of a national cadre that is specialized in finance and accounting,” she added.
Al-Twaiher said the memorandum of understanding with the SFA includes joint cooperation in organizing and implementing awareness campaigns..
As part of this, the two organizations will design training programs for women interested in the fields of accounting and finance.
Razan Al-Sehaibani, a certified accountant, said that women are naturally suited to accounting. She added that she chose the profession because she had the capabilities to be an active member in society and contribute to building the national economy.
She praised the future of the accounting industry as “promising,” adding that the addition of more women accountants will benefit the field.


Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
  • Incentives intended to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved a number of incentive initiatives for establishments operating in the Hajj and Umrah sectors, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.
The move comes as part of the king’s keenness to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals, private sector businesses and investors.
“These initiatives come as an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts to confront the financial and economic impacts on the sectors operating in the Hajj and Umrah field and the economic activities most affected by the repercussions of the pandemic,” a statement on SPA said.
The initiatives include:
1. Accommodation facilities would be exempt of annual fees for licenses for municipal commercial activities for one year in Makkah and Madinah.
2. Hajj and Umrah sector establishments will be exempt from paying the fee for employed expats for six months.
3. Licenses for accommodation facilities from the Ministry of Tourism may be renewed free of charge for one year in Makkah and Madinah, which can be extended.
4. Collection of residency renewal fees for expatriates working in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be postponed for six months, and the amounts are to be paid in installments over a period of one year.
5. The validity of licenses (application forms) for buses operating in facilities that transport pilgrims would be extended without charge for one year.
6. Collection of customs duties for new buses for this year’s Hajj season will be postponed for three months, and to be paid in installments over a period of four months starting from the due date.
The Saudi government has launched more than 150 initiatives, the allocations of which exceeded SR180 billion ($47.9 billion), with the aim of confronting the repercussions of pandemic and mitigating its effects on individuals, the private sector and investors.


Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally
Dania Akeel describes the Saudi rally’s standards as very high. (Social media)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally
  • Dania Akeel says Saudi women have been given the maximum opportunity to discover themselves

MAKKAH: Saudi biker Dania Akeel sustained three pelvic fractures while participating in the Bahrain Season, but she has not been discouraged from planning to compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally.

She is one of the most prominent names in next year’s event, after arduous rounds in different rallies and getting being trained by professionals in the UAE and Spain.
Akeel took part in competitions in Dubai in 2019, as well as in Bahrain Season.
“In the last season, I suffered an accident and sustained three pelvic fractures, affecting my spine in the Bahrain in March 2020, which forced me to return to Saudi Arabia to undergo medical tests and physical therapy,” she told Arab News.
She described the Saudi rally’s standards as very high and said that champions from around the world traveled to the Kingdom to take part in the Dakar Rally, one of the toughest events.
Akeel has been a fierce competitor in races including the Hail and Northern Region Rally, which is a stage of the International Motorsport Federation’s world rally championship.

Saudi women can now prove to the world their ability to compete and participate in international racetracks in different sports.

Dania Akeel

“I was lucky that rallies in Saudi Arabia are very advanced internationally, and I was encouraged by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF). I also became the first Saudi woman to have received the Speed Bikes Competition license after competing in the UAE.”
She thanked SAMF Chairman Prince Khalid bin Sultan and Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki for supporting women who were entering events at an international level.
She said that Saudi women had been given the maximum opportunity to discover themselves and become key partners in all occasions, celebrations and diverse sports.
It was the element of adventure that attracted her to rallies, she explained, because racing was a sport that required a comprehensive partnership and navigation with a co-pilot. The diversity of rallies, in terms of distance and duration, also appealed to her.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dania Akeel is one of the most prominent names in next year’s event.

• Akeel took part in competitions in Dubai in 2019, as well as in the Bahrain Season.

• Akeel has been a fierce competitor in races including the Hail and Northern Region Rally.

“The Sharqiyah International Baja Toyota Rally is my personal first race. It is an incentive for me to participate in the 2022 Dakar Rally and a race that introduces me to the future world of racing.”
She aimed to continue in the rally with good health and safety measures in place and learn from her experiences which, she said, was important for the “real takeoff and acquisition of essential skills in this kind of races.”
There was a great passion for the sport, she observed, especially among ambitious Saudi women who had discovered challenging worlds and areas that reflected their reputation.
“They can now prove to the world their ability to compete and participate in international racetracks in different sports.”
Akeel, who holds a master’s degree in international business, said that motorbikes had helped her to discover herself and learn about concentration, mastery, responsibility and participation skills. She also learned about mental clarity.
“This is a sport that needs full commitment to training, physical and mental fitness and control.”
Akeel has been passionate about driving since her childhood. She rode her first quad bike aged 8, and her first 150cc dirt bike in the desert at 14.
“I believe it is only natural for me to partake in one of the most challenging desert championships around the world, which also happens to take place in our sandy backyard,” she said.
Akeel was also the recipient of the “Rookie of the Year” award during her first racing season, for the Ducati Cup in the UAE National Sportbike Super series 2019/2020 season.