Saudi T20 webinar tackles online learning, cybersecurity and the challenges of lockdown

Saudi T20 webinar tackles online learning, cybersecurity and the challenges of lockdown
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Updated 06 October 2020

Saudi T20 webinar tackles online learning, cybersecurity and the challenges of lockdown

Saudi T20 webinar tackles online learning, cybersecurity and the challenges of lockdown

RIYADH: Though the coronavirus pandemic has forced this year’s G20 summit to take place online, it has not diminished the hard work put into every aspect of its success.

Every G20 engagement group has taken steps to ensure that the show goes on, and the Think 20 (T20) is no exception.

The T20’s Task force 6 held a webinar on Tuesday afternoon covering “Economy, Employment, and Education in the Digital Age” and recommending policies to reform education and provide opportunities for training and entrepreneurship by addressing the digital continuum in the changing labor market.

The proposals highlight such issues as the digital gender gap and initiatives to develop practical and self-sustaining solutions to reduce cyber security risks and enhance data privacy.

Lead co-chair Dr. Heidi Alaskary, a visiting research fellow from the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Special Olympics, opened the webinar by thanking everyone who participated in this year’s T20 despite the unprecedented challenges this year has posed.

“This year has been quite the journey for many of us. All our plans didn’t necessarily come to fruition in the way we expected, but we’ve surpassed what we thought was going to happen in many ways, and we’ve learned a lot,” she said.

More than 60 proposals from 165 researchers from 63 think tanks worldwide were submitted to this year’s T20. Dr. Alaskary said they were all of great merit, but they were ultimately whittled down to 12.

“Our final policy briefs span a number of topics. Everything from cybersecurity to fintech to education to employment to economic impact...the one string that holds this all together is issues around the digital age and technology,” she said.

The webinar included speeches by leading experts in these fields, such as Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal, president of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, and Gianmario Verona, rector of Bocconi University. Dr. Victor Pineda, task force co-chair, president and founder of the Victor Pineda Foundation and president of World Enabled, also made an appearance via a pre-recorded message.

One of the important topics discussed by the webinar’s panels was the necessity of protecting children from the dangers of the internet, particularly with the majority of schooling taking place online and/or digitally as the pandemic rages on, as pointed out by Dr. Hind Khalifa, a Task force 6 policy brief author.

“The growing number of internet users under the age of 18 is tremendous. One in three internet users are under the age of 18. Children are accessing the internet at increasingly younger ages. In some countries, children under 15 are as likely to use the internet as adults over 25,” she said.

The panels also discussed how the participants were coping with the lockdowns, the reopening policies and quarantine guidelines in their respective cities, as well as with online learning from the perspective of both the teachers and the parents of students.

The webinar also featured the video of an art installation by Riyadh-based Saudi artist Marwa AlMugait. “AlBunt,” a 3D projection mapping depicts an abstracted visual representation of the historic Bab al-Bunt Museum and its strategic geographical location. Projected onto the outer wall of the museum, it is a visual narrative of the century-old story of the time when AlBunt acted as the main port, customs authority and marina of Jeddah.

“It’s a merger between the history of the building, which goes back 140 years, and the use of modern technology. It’s an overlap of artforms with multimedia, as well as an overlap of design with the building which will open up different doors to today’s youth to enter these fields,” said AlMugait.

The webinar ended with a few words from Dr. Fahad M. Alturki, chair of the T20 and vice president and head of research at King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. Dr. Alturki thanked everyone involved for their contributions to the T20 this year.

“T20 this year is tackling an important issue, and our inspiration is to reduce inequality in the face of the health crisis by maintaining access to education and economic opportunities. We also aim to leverage technology and digitalization for global challenges,” he added.

In lieu of a physical summit, this year’s T20 will conclude with a series of webinars and a virtual conference during the T20 Summit Season. Each task force is holding a webinar to discuss the key themes and recommendations identified over the course of the year, ending with a virtual conference over two days on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2020.

Initiated in 2012, the T20 engagement groups are independent from national governments and comprised of prestigious think tanks and academia from the international community. The T20 does not advocate or campaign around specific ideas, but serves rather to generate policy proposals. Each year, under a new G20 presidency, the T20 creates task forces to structure their proposals around the most critical issues, driving policy innovation.

Iran still a destabilizing influence in Middle East, Saudi Arabia committed to regional peace: Prince Faisal

Updated 05 December 2020

Iran still a destabilizing influence in Middle East, Saudi Arabia committed to regional peace: Prince Faisal

Iran still a destabilizing influence in Middle East, Saudi Arabia committed to regional peace: Prince Faisal
  • ‘Region has been unstable for some time and main source is Iran,’ FM
  • Faisal bin Farhan says Kingdom has always been in favor, supports US-Iran dialogue

RIYADH: Iran continues to fund terrorist militias to incite violence in the region, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Friday.
“The region has been unstable for some time and the main source of that instability is Iran and Iran’s continuing activity in the region and its continuing focus on exporting its revolution on making sure that it continues to be able to manipulate governments in various countries,” said Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Speaking at the Mediterranean Dialogues Forum held in Rome, the Saudi minister said Iranian interference can be seen from Lebanon to Syria, from Yemen to Iraq, where Tehrain continues to fund militias and “use violence to try and further their political agendas, including attacking diplomatic missions.”
Prince Faisal also said that “we see Iran having a hand in terrorist plots throughout Europe and other places.”
He also said that the Kingdom does not support assassinations, adding that they are “not part of our policy,” referring to the recent killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist linked to Tehran’s nuclear program, who died in hospital after he was gunned down in his car near the Iranian capital.
The foreign minister said the Kingdom supports dialogue between the US and Iran and has always been in favor of that.
“The Trump administration was open to dialogue with Iran, and it was Iran that closed the door to that dialogue,” he said, adding “we will be open to real dialogue in the future that addresses significant issues of concern,” including nuclear non-proliferation, use of ballistic missiles and “most importantly its destabilizing activities.”
He also said the without addressing Iran’s malign role, its funding of armed groups and terrorist organizations in the region and its “attempts to impose its will by force on other states, we are not going to have progress.”
On Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US President-elect Joe Biden, Prince Faisal said: “I think we will have a positive engagement, there will not always be a full alignment and there will be areas of disagreement, this has always been the case and it’s the case between any two partners.
“But through discussion, dialogue and engagement we will find common ground and work together because in the end we are both committed to the same things,” he said, adding that these include commitment to a secure and stable region, a global community that works together toward multilateralism and respect for national sovereignty.
He said the Biden administration “will find that we have taken a very proactive, positive approach to Yemen by announcing a unilateral cease-fire sometime ago, we have engaged with them through the UN representative very strongly to try and facilitate a permanent declaration of cease-fire from all parties.”
However, he said that the Iran-backed Houthi militia have been reluctant to sign and have put “unacceptable demands which the government of Yemen has not been able to accept.”
The internationally recognized government in Yemen has been battling the Houthis since 2014 in what the United Nations says is one of the biggest humanitarian crises, with over 24 million people – around 80 percent of the population — in need of assistance.
“We are fully committed in Yemen to a political resolution to the conflict and we will work happily and very hard with the incoming (Biden) administration to make that happen,” he said.
While, on the issue of peace in the Middle East, the Saudi foreign minister said that the Kingdom supports a just peace agreement that gives the Palestinians an independent state.
Asked about the Abraham accords, which was an agreement signed by the UAE and Bahrain officially establishing diplomatic relations, the Saudi minister said that they were important steps toward a potential stable region.
“That did help take annexation off the table and they set the groundwork for potential engagement and we can see them as steps in the right direction, provided that we can now use those agreements as well, as a stepping stone to renew engagement between the Palestinians and Israelis, and work toward settling back a dispute that is fair and equitable to the Palestinians and delivers a sovereign state,” he said.
Addressing domestic issues, Prince Faisal referred to many reforms, including women’s rights and the youth.
“Youth and women empowerment are a key focus of Vision 2030 and giving them access to not just the labor market, which we have seen great success in women’s participation in the private sector that has increased by something like 300% over the last five years, and other very significant developments,” he said.
“We continue to work through our laws and legislations to ensure that we have a system that is comparable to any in the world and that is a key focus, because in order for us to empower our youth, they need to have a legal framework environment where they can act in a way that really opens up their potential,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to transform the Kingdom into an economic and tourist hub, diversify investment opportunities and develop various public and private sectors in an effort to reduce its dependency on oil.
“That reform program remains on track and despite COVID-19 stifling it, we have refocused our attention and energy on the need to move that agenda forward and that includes opening up various sectors of the economy, whether it’s culture, entertainment, sports — all these areas that contribute to a diverse society and economy.”