The key role of data in the transformation of Saudi Arabia

Majed A. Al-Hussain, the vice president of Saudi Arabia’s National Data Management Office. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 October 2020

The key role of data in the transformation of Saudi Arabia

  • Vice president of National Data Management Office talks about the pioneering work being carried out to develop a national data strategy

RIYADH: Data is an increasingly important strategic national asset, according to Majed A. Al-Hussain, the vice president of Saudi Arabia’s National Data Management Office (NDMO).

In recognition of this, the office has developed a road map that includes a number of pioneering initiatives designed to drive a national data strategy, he told Arab News. He also highlighted a number of important issues that such a strategy must address, from data protection to improving the performance of government bodies through digital transformation.

One of the challenges facing Saudi authorities, he said, is whether to store personal data within the Kingdom or in other countries. A number of factors must be considered when making a decision about this, including privacy rights, protection of personal data, the nature and sensitivity of the data, the time required to process information, and storage capacity. There are also legal requirements, he added, and it is necessary to carefully assess the guarantees provided by data-hosting platforms in other countries.

The development of Saudi Arabia is at an important stage, as authorities rapidly implement measures designed to ensure the digital transformation of the nation’s economy and all government functions proceed smoothly.

Al-Hussain said the NDMO was set up to enhance the data-based economy, which will benefit the public and private sectors and improve the quality of services provided to citizens and residents.

“The office is also responsible for regulating data management and personal data protection at the national level and publishing associated policies, standards and mechanisms, setting the compliance framework, and monitoring compliance accordingly,” he said.

In this way it provides support for decision-making processes and helps governmental organizations to perform better, he added.

To improve standards of data management, the NDMO will analyze and assess the readiness of the public sector and develop a framework for the assessment of national data-management practices and the design of training programs for the government, Al-Hussain said.

“The office will also work with government agencies to appoint chief data officers and establish data offices that will support national data-regulation policies and standards adoption, align with national data programs, and drive agency-specific data initiatives,” he added.

The NDMO works with a number of key partners, including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; the National Cybersecurity Authority; the Communications and Information Technology Commission; Yesser, which is the Kingdom’s e-government program; and the National Center for Archives and Records.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SADAI) will launch a national strategy for data and AI during the Global AI Summit, a virtual event sponsored by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that will be hosted by Riyadh on Oct. 21 and 22.

“Saudi Arabia is seeing a huge growth of data through all sectors, which paves the way for a strategy that can be used as a significant national asset to achieve economic, social and competitive gains,” said Abdullah Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, the president of SADAI.

The summit will feature keynote speakers, panel discussions and a number of interactive events. The program covers four key areas: day one will focus on “Shaping the New Normal” and “AI and Governments,” while the second day is dedicated to “Governing AI” and “The Future of AI.”

The summit aims to encourage meaningful discussion and development of innovative ideas that can have a global impact, in terms of recovering from the pandemic and identifying trends that shape the field of artificial intelligence.

It also hopes to provide inspiring insights into future requirements for regulators, investors and businesses, and offer an opportunity for participants to learn from pioneering innovators who are using artificial intelligence to build a better tomorrow.

A total of 7,375 delegates from 141 countries have registered for the summit, during which they will hear 51 experts share their views, exchange insights and discuss new ways to use AI to benefit humanity.
 


Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

Nutrition is the most important part when it comes to bodybuilding, then comes type of exercise, and good rest. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2020

Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

  • Ali Al-Salam, who stopped consuming animal products in 2017, says certain steps must be completed to have an athletic body

JEDDAH: The vegan diet has risen in popularity in Saudi Arabia in recent years and has been a constant topic of debate among Saudis, attracting the interest of many, including athletes.

Ongoing debates about whether the vegan diet is sufficient for normal people, let alone bodybuilders, abound, but one Saudi is answering them physically.
Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.
Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease, but other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.
Speaking to Arab News, 33-year-old Saudi vegan bodybuilder, Ali Al-Salam, who first started his vegan diet three years ago when he was suffering from high blood pressure, highlighted that the consumption of animal products is a deep rooted idea among bodybuilders and athletes.
“We always hear that in order to build muscle, we must consume animal products. In some parts of the world, there are people who can only have a small amount of animal products yet they live their lives healthily and comfortably and are not suffering from malnutrition — on the contrary, they have a lower level of chronic illnesses.”

When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.

Ali Al-Salam, Saudi vegan bodybuilder

He said it also opened his eyes to what goes on in the dairy and meat industry; he began researching in 2016 and decided to become vegan in 2017.
“I was just like every other athlete, I used to consume a high amounts of protein. I remember in the last days before turning vegan, I used to have 10 egg whites and a piece of steak for breakfast to fulfil my protein needs. This made me think, ‘is this the only way to consume protein?’ And from then on, I started researching and got introduced to the vegan diet at a larger scale,” he said.
“When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.”
He explained that bodybuilding does not solely rely on protein, and that there are steps that must be completed in order to reach an athletic body. Nutrition is the most important part, then comes type of exercise, and good rest.
“When we talk about good nutrition, it does not just rely on protein. Yes, it is important, but the amount of calories in general is more important,” he said.
“Let’s say you needed 200 grams of protein, does that mean if you consumed 200 grams of it, you would gain muscle? No. You need all the basic nutrients to reach a certain amount of calories in general,” he added.
He highlighted that as soon as people register for gym memberships, they immediately look for supplements because they think they cannot reach the needed amount of protein.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.

• Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease.

• But other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.

• Vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants.

• Animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.

“I’m talking about non-vegans here too, where their protein intake is already high. Marketing plays a big role here. People link protein to animal products because our society grew up with this idea as well.
“Can a vegan build muscle? Yes, when they eat right, exercise correctly and rest well. The misconception about protein stems from amino acids. People think vegan food lacks amino acids, and only animal products are full of them and that is far from the truth,” he added.
When comparing vegan athletes to regular athletes, he said vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants which helps greatly in recovery, and because “animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.”