Saudi Arabia’s $20bn bid to lead the world in artificial intelligence

Saudi Arabia’s $20bn bid to lead the world in artificial intelligence
Several major partnerships and initiatives are expected to be announced during the course of the two-day summit. (Screenshot)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Saudi Arabia’s $20bn bid to lead the world in artificial intelligence

Saudi Arabia’s $20bn bid to lead the world in artificial intelligence
  • Aim is to train 20,000 data specialists and launch 300 startup companies by 2030

RIYADH, DUBAI: Saudi Arabia launched an audacious multibillion-dollar strategy on Wednesday to become a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and data by 2030.
The aim is to train 20,000 specialists and experts, have 300 active startups and attract $20 billion in national and foreign investment in data and AI.
“Saudi Arabia wants to set the best example globally in using AI for the development of a nation,” Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, president of the Saudi Data and AI Authority, told the Global AI Summit in Riyadh.
“The strategy aims to make Saudi Arabia the place where the best of data and artificial intelligence is made reality … it sets the foundation and direction upon which we will unlock the potential of data and AI to fulfill our national transformation priorities and establish Saudi Arabia as a global hub for data and AI.”
Alghamdi said Saudi Arabia viewed the summit as an annual platform that would look at AI in a fresh and positive way that “elevates international collaboration over competition.”
 “AI’s potential has led to fierce competition between nations to claim global leadership … there has been an overly negative debate on the risks and dangers,” he said.

 

The inaugural summit aims to explore artificial intelligence’s role in the new global era and how its transformational potential can be deployed “to create a better future for all.”
Among the aims is accelerating AI for sustainable development in less wealthy countries, Al-Ghamdi said, so that “no one is left is behind.” Saudi Arabia and the World Bank have launched an initiative to enhance the digital economy in developing countries and empower them to expedite AI technology.  
Esam Al-Wagait, director of Saudi Arabia’s National Information Center, said the agreement would forge partnerships to speed up AI development in less fortunate African countries. Makhtar Diop, vice president for infrastructure at the World Bank, said the partnerships would help the governments of those countries build AI capabilities and set relevant development policies.
He said there was a focus on the African continent based on the common intentions of the strategic partnership. This also aims to aid developing countries and help them create innovative solutions to their economic and social challenges, and contribute to enhancing the efficiency of all vital sectors in these countries through AI.
Before the summit concludes on Thursday, global AI agreements and partnerships will be signed, and the winners of the AI Artathon competition and NEOM Challenge will be announced.
 


Historic forum brings together Iraqi scholars in Makkah

Historic forum brings together Iraqi scholars in Makkah
Updated 6 min 4 sec ago

Historic forum brings together Iraqi scholars in Makkah

Historic forum brings together Iraqi scholars in Makkah
  • The Forum of the Iraqi Religious Scholars was organized by the Muslim World League (MWL)
  • MWL secretary-general said the Iraqi government has made huge steps to strengthen its country’s identity

MAKKAH: An international forum about valuing the role of Saudi Arabia in strengthening peaceful coexistence concluded on Wednesday by stressing unity and a unanimous position in rejecting the rhetoric of sectarianism, hatred, and clash.

Organized by the Muslim World League (MWL), the Forum of the Iraqi Religious Scholars in Makkah was held in the presence of senior Sunni and Shiite scholars.

The forum’s final statement stressed the need to activate the “Makkah Document” and open channels of constructive dialogue and positive communication among scholars so they can resolve issues and crises.

The final statement also recommended setting a body for cultural communication between sects that the Muslim societies consist of, in addition to a coordinating committee that brings together Iraqi religious scholars and MWL.

The forum stressed the need to confront religious extremism from all sources, in addition to strengthening means of rejecting the rhetoric of intellectual and cultural hatred in the Muslim world.

MWL secretary-general Sheikh Mohammed Al-Issa said that the Iraqi government has made huge steps to strengthen its country’s identity, adding that “in their meeting today, the Iraqi religious scholars have warned of the disease of sectarianism.”

In his inaugural speech, Al-Issa said: “Between Sunnis and Shiites, there is nothing but ideal fraternal understanding and coexistence, and cooperation and integration in the context of sincere compassion, while understanding the specificity of each sect within the same religion.”

Pshtiwan Sadiq Abdullah, minister of endowments and religious affairs in Kurdistan-Iraq, said his government did not spare any effort in building the new and progressive federal Iraq, and that it has contributed to drafting the constitution, which guaranteed the rights of all components.

He also said Kurdistan was — and still is — a safe haven as it enjoys peaceful coexistence and respect for all religions and sects.

Sheikh Ahmed Hassan Al-Taha, a chief scholar of the Iraqi Jurisprudence Council, praised the role of the Kingdom under the leadership of King Salman in strengthening regional and international peace while also thwarting extremism.

He cited the 2006 Makkah Document as the best evidence to stop the bloodshed in a wounded Iraq.

“Kurds were pioneers in seeking good despite the ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity, which made Kurdistan-Iraq a role model at all levels,” Sheikh Abdullah Said Waysi, the head of the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars Union, said.

He also said the efforts of the religious institutions in Kurdistan-Iraq revolve around strengthening the principle of communication and cooperation among all in Iraq, based on serving society and the interests of its citizens.

A delegation of senior Iraqi religious scholars arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday evening to participate in the forum.


Saudi FM: Hezbollah’s power is the main cause of Lebanon's crisis

Saudi FM: Hezbollah’s power is the main cause of Lebanon's crisis
Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi FM: Hezbollah’s power is the main cause of Lebanon's crisis

Saudi FM: Hezbollah’s power is the main cause of Lebanon's crisis
  • Prince Faisal reiterated the Kingdom’s continuous solidarity with the Lebanese people in times of crises
  • The minister said any aid provided to Lebanon by the Kingdom depends on serious reforms being carried out

RIYADH: Hezbollah’s insistence on imposing its hegemony on the Lebanese state is the main cause of Lebanon’s problems, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking at an international conference on Lebanon marking the first anniversary of the Beirut Port explosion, Prince Faisal bin Farhan urged Lebanese politicians to confront the organization’s behavior in order to achieve the will of the Lebanese people to combat corruption and implement necessary reforms in the crisis-stricken country.
Prince Faisal added that any aid provided to Lebanon by the Kingdom depends on serious reforms being carried out while ensuring the money reaches its beneficiaries and not siphoned off by corrupt officials.
“We are concerned that the investigations into the Beirut port explosion have not yet yielded any tangible results,” the foreign minister said. 
He praised the efforts of France and the international community to support Lebanon and its people, stressing the need for these efforts to be accompanied by real reforms to overcome the economic and political crises sweeping Lebanon. 
Prince Faisal reiterated the Kingdom’s continuous solidarity with the Lebanese people in times of crises and challenges, and stressed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to its contributions to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon.
“The Kingdom was one of the first countries to respond to providing humanitarian aid to Lebanon after the horrific explosion that occurred exactly a year ago in the port of Beirut through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief). KSRelief continues to implement its programs in Beirut to this day,” Prince Faisal said.
The donor conference to raise emergency aid for Lebanon's crippled economy on Wednesday raised $370 million, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.


Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 511,318
  • A total of 8,284 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 14 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,043 new infections on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 214 were recorded in Makkah, 192 in Riyadh, 169 in the Eastern Province, 126 in Asir, 92 in Jazan, 65 in Madinah, 43 in Hail, 39 in Najran, 19 in Tabuk, 18 in the Northern Borders region, 16 in Al-Baha, and 11 in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 511,318 after 1,211 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,284 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 28.3 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 04 August 2021

Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
  • Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi aims to preserve the history of social and cultural life in Saudi Arabia
  • Makkah in those days was a beacon for writers, poets and scientists

MAKKAH: A Saudi agricultural engineer is spending his retirement years helping to preserve the Kingdom’s architectural and cultural history — in the form of extremely accurate models of important buildings and sites in Jeddah and Makkah.

Now Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi has turned his house in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah neighborhood into an exhibition space to showcase his models, which represent a fascinating record of daily social and cultural life in the cities in the early-to-mid 20th century.
A good example of this is his model of a “writer’s cafe” in the Misfalah neighborhood of Makkah that was once popular with writers, intellectuals and poets. Through it, he said, he aims to immortalize the role these figures played in the development of literature in Saudi Arabia and the country’s cultural history.
“Knowledgeable people told me that the cafe where Makkah’s writers, poets and intellectuals used to go to was Saleh Abdulhay Cafe, located next to Bajrad Cafe,” 72-year-old Al-Hebshi told Arab News. “Similar cafes were found throughout Makkah’s Misfalah neighborhood in the past.”
He said culture and literature thrived in Makkah in those days, along with the study of science and the quest for knowledge. The city was therefore a beacon for writers, poets and scientists, and the Saleh Abdulhay Cafe was one of the places where they could gather for intellectual and cultural discussions.
“Among the cultural and intellectual figures that used to go to the writer’s cafe … was the Saudi Minister of Culture Mohammed Abdu Yamani,” he said, adding that such venues were the country’s first literary and cultural forums, where people could gather to discuss literary and intellectual issues.
With his models and exhibition, Al-Hebshi said he wants to depict and preserve this history of day-to-day life and culture in Makkah and Jeddah in days gone by. In addition to the cafe, his models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth.
In particular, he said he wants to immortalize the lives of the intellectuals and writers of the era by documenting their daily lives, the ways in which people interacted with them and how neighborhoods such as Misfalah developed as important cultural centers.
So far he has spent three years building his models of cafes, shops, houses and public squares. He has completed four and is working on a fifth. The task requires hard work and patience, he said. For example, it requires great effort to accurately recreate in miniature the rawasheen, the elaborately patterned wooden window frames found in old buildings in Makkah and Jeddah that maximize natural light and air flow. Great accuracy is required throughout the model making process when it comes to the sizes, dimensions and scale.
“One meter in real life is 10 centimeters in the models,” Al-Hebshi said, which represents a scale of one-to-10. “This measure seeks to maintain, as much as possible, the space’s real dimensions.”
The contents of rooms must also be in scale with the building and each other, he explained: “A bottle of Coca-Cola cannot be bigger than a watermelon and so on.” These are all important details in his models, he added, which ensure they are accurate and consistent.
Given the incredible detail and quality of the models, you would be forgiven for thinking Al-Hebshi is a trained carpenter; in fact he is an enthusiastic amateur with a true passion for the craft. Such is his dedication that even hand injuries — and the need for surgery after damaging a finger with a drill — have not kept him from his work for long.

HIGHLIGHT

Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi says he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets.

He said his model making began after he found some tools that had been abandoned in a carpentry shop, and for materials he used wood and discarded kaftans he found in stores he shopped at. Wood cutting requires great skill, he added, and while he makes most parts of his models, he said he imports some items from abroad to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. For example he buys miniature signs advertising popular international brands such as Pepsi, Miranda and 7-Up, which are difficult to recreate through woodworking.
Al-Hebshi was director of the Agricultural Bank in Jeddah when he was forced to retire in 2006 as a result of a back injury, and he found himself wondering what he could do with his time. A few years earlier he had developed an interest in woodworking but the demands of his job left him with little time to pursue it. A friend who was aware of this suggested he do something with the wood from a large felled neem tree that had been dumped in Jeddah.
“That tree turned out to be the start of me professionally building models,” he said. He added that he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets. The Saudi leadership has put a special focus on the area to showcase its history and splendor and Al-Hebshi said that this has helped him research his detailed designs.
He added that he welcomes all those who wish to visit his house, in Al-Rawdah neighborhood 3, to see his models. He plans to build more to add to his incredible picture of past life in the Kingdom, and the people who helped the country become the nation it is.


Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert
Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert
  • Head of UN Center for Counter-Terrorism ‘impressed by the pioneering research work’ carried out by Kingdom’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology
  • Center’s Gether2 initiative, which aims to raise awareness of the risks of extremism among people with hearing disabilities, singled out for particular praise

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) is a “world leader” in pioneering work to prevent and counter violent extremism, according to Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT).

“Etidal is a world leader in this field and we are proud of it,” he said during a visit by a UNCCT delegation to Etidal’s headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. “We are very pleased … to be able to work closely with the center.

“We are impressed by the pioneering research work you are doing in this field. We have to follow your example on matters in which we need to cooperate.”

Khan in particular highlighted Eitdal’s Gether2 initiative, which aims to raise awareness among people with hearing disabilities of the risks of extremism, saying he had never seen any other initiatives designed to reach people with disabilities in this way.

“I congratulate you on this project and we would like to know more about it,” he said. “As you know, we in the United Nations have specific agencies that deal with matters of concern to people with disabilities from a humanitarian side only, unlike your side, where I think we should see the whole picture.”

The UN delegation was welcomed to the center by Etidal’s secretary-general, Mansour Al-Shammari. During the visit the two sides discussed ways to enhance cooperation in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism and violent extremism.

The delegation also learned about the center’s monitoring and analysis mechanisms, the techniques it use and the models it is creating and developing, as well as the most prominent advanced technologies in the field.