Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast

Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast
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Lino Cattaruzzi, managing director for Google in MENA. (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast
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Updated 18 October 2020

Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast

Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast
  • The program includes cloud training for local businesses, as well as workshops on advanced digital skills, such as a machine learning platform that will teach about 140,000 developers with a focus on women

DUBAI: Several Saudi ministries have teamed up with tech giant Google to launch a set of projects aimed at helping the Kingdom’s economic strategy and digital transformation.

Google said the initiatives will focus on Saudi Arabia and the MENA region and will boost economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic. The program, named “Grow stronger with Google,” will include a comprehensive list of digital tools, grants and training opportunities to support local businesses and job seekers across the region. In the Kingdom, Google will target the retail, tourism and technology sectors, including Saudi Post, which will list 100,000 local entities on the company’s digital platform and train employees in online marketing.
“We are proud to partner with Google in this initiative to bring value to Saudi nationals, residents and local businesses, especially SMEs through bringing them together using the Google ‘My Business’ platform,” said President of the Saudi Post Anef Abanomi.
“Through this partnership we aim to list up to 100,000 businesses in the first phase in line with Saudi Post’s strategic transformation objectives to improve quality of life and help SMEs achieve their e-commerce and digitization goals,” he added.
Lino Cattaruzzi, managing director for Google in MENA, said in a press release: “During the pandemic, online tools have been a lifeline for many in Saudi Arabia. Making the most of the online opportunity can help Saudi people, businesses and communities and in the wider region bounce back stronger.” He said the program will equip businesses and individuals in the Kingdom with digital skills, especially in sectors that have been most affected by the pandemic, such as retail and tourism.

HIGHLIGHT

In the Kingdom, Google will target the retail, tourism and technology sectors, including Saudi Post, which will list 100,000 local entities on the company’s digital platform and train employees in online marketing.

The tech giant has also partnered with several Saudi bodies — including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Tourism — to implement the programs. One project is set to train 50,000 students and businesses in digital marketing.
“We remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of this region, and we’re confident that by working together with local partners, we can boost recovery and build on the rapid acceleration of tech adoption we’ve seen during the crisis,” Cattaruzzi said.
The program also includes cloud training for local businesses, as well as workshops on advanced digital skills, such as a machine learning platform that will teach about 140,000 developers with a focus on women.
Google said it wants to help 1 million people and businesses throughout the MENA region learn digital skills and grow businesses by the end of 2021.


Makkah’s Grand Mosque ready to receive worshippers at full capacity

Makkah’s Grand Mosque ready to receive worshippers at full capacity
Updated 18 sec ago

Makkah’s Grand Mosque ready to receive worshippers at full capacity

Makkah’s Grand Mosque ready to receive worshippers at full capacity

RIYADH: The Grand Mosque in Makkah is ready to receive pilgrims and worshippers at full capacity on Sunday as Saudi Arabia loosens COVID-19 restrictions, an official said.

The Under-Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque, Dr. Saad bin Mohammed Al-Muhaimid, said that a plan has been implemented for the mosque to operate at full capacity whilst ensuring the safety of all.

Al-Muhaimid added that visitors to the holy mosque will still be required to wear face masks and make reservations to perform Umrah and prayers through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna applications.

Workers at the Grand Mosque on Saturday evening were seen peeling stickers reminding people to socially distance off the floor, marking an end to the era of people in the Kingdom praying with 1-2 meter gaps between them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday, social distancing will no longer be mandatory at social gatherings or in public settings including on public transport and in restaurants, cinemas, and malls.

Face masks will no longer be mandatory in outdoor settings, except for certain specific locations including the two holy mosques.


Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 536,900
  • A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 45 new infections on Saturday.

Of the new cases, 20 were recorded in Riyadh, five in Jeddah, two in Tabuk, two in Makkah, two in Al-Khobar, and two in Yanbu. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 536,900 after 41 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 44.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
Updated 16 October 2021

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
  • The men praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection

CAIRO: Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and her Saudi counterpart Abdulrahman Al-Fadley discussed environmental cooperation between their two countries.

They praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection, with Fouad saying the environment is a priority for Egypt’s leadership.

She also welcomed cooperation with Saudi Arabia in terms of converting waste into energy.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the fields of coastal management, marine policies, environmental monitoring, management of chemicals and hazardous waste, and integration of environmental knowledge into educational curricula.

Al-Fadley expressed his aspiration to cooperate with Egypt in the field of water desalination and reusing extracted salt.

The two sides agreed to focus on cooperating to preserve the Red Sea, with Fouad noting its richness in coral reefs and marine life.


Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
  • Prince Khalid: “We have a very young population. They want a different world”
  • “I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices”

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has praised the wide-ranging modernization efforts carried out by the Kingdom’s leadership.

“In the last five years the pace has been huge — 1,000 laws have been altered or removed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told The Times.

“There is a misconception about Saudi that we never change, but going back 100 years it’s been dramatic. My grandfather went to work on horseback, my father flew fast fighter jets, and my cousin went into space.”

Prince Khalid said the way the Kingdom legislates for women is also changing. “Just before I was posted here (in the UK), I went back for two days and I called one of my sisters and said, ‘Let’s go for a coffee. Shall I come and pick you up?’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got my car.’ It brought a real smile to my face,” he said.

“Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for her to have a job, let alone drive. We are still a very conservative society but we have a very young population. They want a different world.”

The ambassador, who attended the prestigious Eton College before Oxford University and Sandhurst, said: “I feel very Saudi, but I was brought up in the West.” 

His links to Britain are strong, not only through being educated in the UK but also through his English wife Lucy Cuthbert, a niece of the duke of Northumberland.

Prince Khalid has seen some of the modernization he witnessed in Britain appearing in his homeland, including mobile phones, which he said have made a huge difference to Saudi society.

“We have one of the highest percentages of phones per capita in the world, nearly three phones per person,” he added.

“The young are all over Instagram. In my generation, there wasn’t much entertainment at home so we had to go abroad. Now the young want to go to shops and cinemas, and there has been an explosion of events,” he said.

“There are women-only sections but no enforced separation. I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices.”

He told The Times that his sister said she “discovered there wasn’t a glass ceiling — it was more of a soft tent and she could push it out.”

The ambassador said 34 percent of the Saudi workforce is made up of women, dramatically leaping from 18 percent in 2016.

“We have had our first graduation for women in the army, there are women in government, in the police, we are training female judges, we have an equal opportunities and equal pay law,” he added.

Prince Khalid also detailed the rapid expansion of the Saudi tourism industry, including the giga-projects being planned. 

“In 2019 we launched our tourist visa online. We issued 440,000 visas before the pandemic started, 60,000 to the UK,” he said.

“We are developing resorts with a Red Sea project and NEOM, a new futuristic city. Saudi Arabia is the size of Western Europe. We also have 330 heritage sites.” These giga-projects are part of $7 trillion of investment under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Kingdom is expected to participate in the UN Climate Change conference, also known as Cop26, in Glasgow later this month. 

“We decided to move away from fossil fuels in 2016. We don’t want to be an oil provider but an energy provider,” said Prince Khalid. “We have committed to producing 50 percent of our energy by renewable sources by 2030.”


Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.