How Saudi Arabia is emerging as a MENA cloud-data hub

How Saudi Arabia is emerging as a MENA cloud-data hub
Saudis attend the second International Cyber Security Conference, in Riyadh on February 27, 2017. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 27 September 2020

How Saudi Arabia is emerging as a MENA cloud-data hub

How Saudi Arabia is emerging as a MENA cloud-data hub
  • American information technology firm Oracle’s cloud data center is one of 20 global offices of its kind
  • Focus is on digital security technologies and innovations including virtual simulation of evolving threats

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is one step closer to becoming a global cloud-data hub with the launch of a data center by Oracle, a leading computer technology corporation based in the US. The Kingdom has been designated as the company’s cloud-data hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The center in Jeddah will focus on digital security technologies and innovations, including virtual simulation of evolving threats. It is yet another step in Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation, in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goal of upgrading the country’s information and communications technology infrastructure.

In emailed comments to Arab News, Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, CEO of the Washington-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research and cybersecurity professor at King Saud University, said: “Being one of the leading and fastest-growing digital powers in the region, Saudi Arabia is in great need of technological innovations, solutions and services to cater to its requirements for smart cities, industry 4.0, cloud computing, 5G, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.




Participants attend a hackathon in Jeddah on August 1, 2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP/File Photo)

“To meet this massive demand for digital transformation by public- and private-sector organizations, the cloud data center by Oracle in the Kingdom will play a pivotal role in accelerating innovation, generating new horizons of digital services, creating competition and providing customers with incredible experiences in the thriving market.”

He believes the move will also pave the way for job creation and spawn new business opportunities for local talent. “The presence of the cloud data center in the Kingdom will enable organizations to scale up their digital services faster than ever before,” Khan wrote in the email. “It may also provide them with cheaper in-country services, better data management, a more secure and resilient environment, data sovereignty controls, and on-demand customer service for more efficient business operations.”

Khan cited additional likely benefits from the center, including the empowerment of local start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators enabling new products and services to enter the market faster.




A person works at a computer during the 10th International Cybersecurity Forum in Lille on January 23, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

“The development could underpin the efforts of Saudi Arabia to be among the leading nations that are bracing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Khan pointed to skyrocketing demand for cybersecurity solutions and services in the Kingdom — which ranks in the top 10 countries most targeted by “significant” cyberattacks. “Cyber threats faced by public- and private-sector organizations are growing exponentially due to the Kingdom’s geopolitical importance in the region and its fast-paced digital transformation,” he said.

A recent report on the cybersecurity sector in the Middle East and Africa estimates that Saudi Arabia’s market may grow to $5.5 billion by 2023. “This huge cybersecurity demand could be efficiently met by the local deployment of cloud-based cybersecurity services,” Khan said. “The role of cloud computing is of paramount importance to predicting and defeating cyberattacks, which leverages AI, big data and instant analytics in real time to address threats and suppress vulnerabilities that seek to undermine security.”




People work on computers on January 22, 2019 in Lille, during the 11th International Cybersecurity Forum. (AFP/File Photo)

In his comments, Khan further pointed to the interest shown by regional and local organizations in the cloud-based security operations center, and cost-effective solutions for security orchestration, automation and response, security information, and event management.

The move is timely too, as a new report revealed that 95 percent of businesses in the Kingdom have been hit by at least one cyberattack in the past year. According to “The Rise of the Business-Aligned Security Executive,” released by Tenable and conducted by Forrester Consulting, the majority of businesses in Saudi Arabia have witnessed a rise in cyberattacks over the past two years.

“More than ever, Saudi Arabia must make a specific tailor-made solution for its sovereign requirements to include digital security and virtual simulation,” said Matthew Cochran, CEO and co-founder of URS Laboratories in the UAE. “Post COVID-19, the region will look to the Kingdom for alignment and leadership on these issues.”

He described the developments as the culmination of decades of planning for scenarios that are becoming increasingly likely due to global circumstances.

“Pre COVID-19, the future of digital security and virtual simulation in the region was important,” Cochran told Arab News. “Now, it is vitally important, if not life-saving, to have it in place — not tomorrow, today. The future is at stake and we must meet the challenges together.”

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Commentators have said that the Saudi center will allow Oracle to facilitate in-country or in-jurisdiction disaster-recovery capabilities and allow their clients to meet their obligations on data security in the country.

“Oracle has a strong presence within the GCC region, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Dean Mikkelsen, an independent IT and cybersecurity consultant working with UAE-based Hannibal Global Insight. “Companies are moving more and more data to the cloud within the GCC. These nations also require that data be kept within their own country, as it relates to privacy and data-security issues.

In the Kingdom, provisions in the Cloud Computing Regulatory Framework state that cloud clients must ensure that no customer content — including sensitive content from public authorities — is transferred outside the Kingdom.

“The Essential Cybersecurity Controls issued by the National Cybersecurity Authority in the Kingdom — which are all applicable to Saudi government entities — require that information be hosted and stored in-country,” Mikkelsen told Arab News. “With Oracle developing this capability in-country, they are meeting the requirements necessary to protect data in the nation.”




Saudi Arabia is one step closer to becoming a global cloud-data hub with the launch of a regional data center by Oracle, a leading computer technology corporation based in the US. (AFP/File Photo)

As Saudi Arabia continues to move away from a petroleum-based economy, it has allowed its technology sectors more room for growth.

“With Oracle moving further into Saudi Arabia, it matches the Kingdom’s vision to become an international leader in science and technology,” said Mikkelsen. “There has been, over the past few years, a large-scale migration of data to the cloud and making sure that data is secure is very important.”

He said data breaches are becoming more widespread, be they from phishing attacks or malware, in a potentially costly development for businesses. UAE-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter recently stated that breaches are “widespread and frequently undetected” in the Middle East.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in network spoofing and phishing attacks, as cyber attackers look to exploit the unfamiliar current climate for their own nefarious purposes,” Mikkelsen said.

“Through regulatory environments and legislation, such as those defined in Saudi Arabia or the UAE, companies and governments are working together to protect the digital assets of individuals, corporations, and their critical infrastructure. With the move made by Oracle in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is saying it is open for business and that anyone’s data will be safe and secure.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
Updated 6 min 35 sec ago

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 940 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 483

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,846.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,070 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,626 remain active and 1,105 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 483, followed by Makkah with 209, the Eastern Province with 157, Madinah recorded 44, and Asir confirmed 39 cases.

The ministry also announced that 940 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 390,538.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 141 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.01 million.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Updated 5 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
  • Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative, with China as a major partner
  • They also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.
During the call, the two leader reviewed the recently announced Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative to combat environmental challenges in the region.
The crown prince announced the two initiatives in late March that aim to form partnerships with regional countries to tackle afforestation, reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent, and protect the marine environment, among other projects.
The crown prince and the president discussed the contributions of these two initiatives toward achieving global targets to combat climate change, and their influential role in raising the quality of life in the region and the world at large.
The crown prince said the Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative in the presence of leaders and officials in the environmental field, adding that China will be a major partner for the initiative.
The Chinese president said Beijing supported both initiatives, stressing the importance of their support by the international community.
Xi told the crown prince that China wants to advance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom.
The crown prince and the president also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology.
Prince Mohammed said his country was ready to strengthen the interconnection between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
During the call, Xi said Beijing “is willing to work with Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community to build an equitable climate governance regime that is cooperative and beneficial to all,” Xinhua news agency reported.
The Chinese president also called for joint efforts to comprehensively and effectively implement “the Paris Agreement on climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.”


Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

DUBAI: The Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait on Tuesday, state TV Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Kingdom has seen an increase in attacks by the militia after the US delisted the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations.

Last month, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak condemned recent attacks by the Houthis, saying that they hindered the peace process and blamed Iran for the ongoing crisis in the country.
“The Iranian interventions have become a formidable obstruction to peace as Iran has turned the Yemeni conflict into a negotiating card that Iranian regime capitalizes on to serve its nuclear negotiations,” he said.


Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 
Updated 20 April 2021

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

RIYADH: The National Culture Awards Ceremony kicked off with a bang in Riyadh, honoring 32 Saudi cultural figures in 14 categories.

A part of the Quality of Life program of Vision 2030 the Ministry of Culture announced the first annual National Cultural Awards winners in a ceremony on Monday evening in the Cultural Palace of the Diplomatic Quarter.

Sponsored by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over 14 categories were awarded in cultural pioneering, youth cultural, cultural institutions, film, music, fashion, national heritage, literature, theater and performing arts, visual art, architecture and design, culinary arts, publishing, and translation.

In January 2020 the Ministry of Culture began the completion process and received over 15,000 submissions online and began deliberating the top submissions into October and chose the final winners in December.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed M. Fayez spoke on behalf of the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud in a speech addressing the ceremony stating, “ Culture, with its civilizational value, its social weight, and its effective developmental role today occupies the place it deserves. Thanks to the inspiring and ambitious national vision, the Saudi Vision 2030, which restored culture as a basic pillar in building society.  Anchored by the national identity and aspects of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Although the Minister of Culture was not in attendance he applauded the winners of the awards for their role in preserving and promoting the Kingdom's Culture stating, “ These intellectuals and creative minds are our cultural capital. With whom we will reach, with them and with their help, a cultural renaissance fitting the stature of our country.”

Dana Awartani one of the winners of the visual arts award from Jeddah, brings to life traditional geometry and historical themes in her art pieces.

“For me it is a huge honor first of all finally being recognized for the creative industry as a whole and all of the work that we do you know the past few years since the ministry has formed it has been completely different for us in getting support and recognition.”

“This is the first ever awards ceremony recognizing different arts which for me is a an honor to be a part of and it’s everything we have been working for, for the past my whole career has been summed up in today’s award and it is also great to see its  recognition from my own community, from my own country in a place where I grew up and where my art started,” Awartani shared with Arab News”.

Arwa Alammari a fashion pioneer of over 7 years and one of the winners of the fashion award shared her sentiments with Arab News stating,

“Being a part of such a cultural celebration of our heritage in such a way and it coming from my country means a lot to me, I have been working in this field for a very long time and I have been awarded internationally but when it comes from my country it means that we are all going toward the cultural changes that is going to be exported to the world.”

The awards ceremony concluded with a speech from the Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar in attendance on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. 

“There is no doubt that it is a very excellent and wonderful step.  That establishes a cultural approach for this country that affirms its high and sublime position in all forums.” 

Prince Bandar thanked the Crown Prince for sponsoring the awards, the Ministry of Culture, and members of the ministry for organizing the event, “I hope that we will all succeed on other occasions to come, so that we will be at a high level in all our events, as much as tonight.  I thank you and hope every year you are well. Peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.”

14 cultural awards winners:

  • The Cultural Pioneer of the Year Award: H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Nasser Alaboudy
  • Youth Cultural Award: Winning first place is Shahad Saeed Amin for her films including “Lady of the Sea” and “Scales” that Saudi Arabia’s film authority nominated for best international film in the Academy Awards.
  • Cultural Institutions Award: First place in the private sector track is King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), First place in the Non-Profit sector track is Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, and winning first place in the Social responsibility track is the Ketabi Lak Application.
  • Film Award: In first place is Shahad Saeed Amin
  • Fashion Award: In first place Lomar, in second place Yousef Mohammed Akbar,and in third place Arwa Abdullah Alammari
  • Music Award: In first place Zaina Emad Swelleh,in second place Akram Ibrahim Almattar, and in third place Reem Fahad Altamimi.
  • National Heritage Award: In first place Abdulaziz Abdullah Aldakheel, in second place Dr. Hisham Ali Mortada ,and in third place Torathuna Social Responsibility Company.
  • Literature Award: In first place is Abdulaziz Saleh Alsagabi, in second place Magbool Moussa Alalawi, and in third place Amal Saleh Alharbi.
  • Theater and Performing Arts Award: In first place Sami Abdullatif Algamaan and in second place Yasser Yahya Madkhli.
  • Visual Arts Award: in first place Lolowah Abdulrazzaq Alhomoud ,in second place Danah Abdulrahim Awratani, and in third place Ahmad Sami Angawi.
  • Architecture and Design Award: A winner was not selected as the submissions did not meet the requirements. 
  • Culinary Arts Award: In first place Rakan Ibrahim Aloraifi, in second place ZADK Culinary Academy, and in third place Norah Abdulwahab Albadran
  • Publishing Award: In first place was Obeikan Publishing and Translation, second place Kadi and Ramadi for Publishing and Distribution, and in third place Dar Athar for Publishing and Distribution.
  • Translation Award: In first place Abdallah Mohammed Idris, in second place Sultan Nasser Almujaiwel, and in third place Bander Mohammed Alharbi.

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries
Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.