Saudi Arabia signs MoUs with IBM, Alibaba and Huawei on AI

Guests attend the Global AI Summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Saudi Arabia signs MoUs with IBM, Alibaba and Huawei on AI

  • Deal with Alibaba cloud will 'help Saudi Arabia’s journey to develop world-class smart cities'

RIYADH: The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA) on Thursday signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) with IBM, Alibaba and Huawei in areas of artificial intelligence (AI) at a summit.

SDAIA and Alibaba Cloud announced an MoU to partner in supporting Saudi Arabia’s path to develop smart cities through AI. “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 has clear goals to transform (the Kingdom’s) cities into smart ones by unlocking the value of city data as a national asset to realize Vision 2030 aspirations,” said Abdullah bin Sharaf Alghamdi, president of SDAIA.

SDAIA and Huawei signed an MoU to recognize the Arabic language and its characters using AI technology and with the help of researchers from the Kingdom and Huawei, according to SDAIA’s Twitter account.

SDAIA is seeking IBM’s help in developing “real use cases” of AI in areas of health, energy and other sectors, as well as training through a strategic relationship, it said.

Saudi Arabia wants to train 20,000 people over the next decade in the field of AI.

“The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will share the best practices in the field of AI with the Kingdom. This will help in shedding light on how to sponsor and support emerging companies and new incubators in the national space, especially as there is no official framework that currently exists to support the AI readiness of countries and international cooperation,” Alghamdi said.

Mishari Almishari, deputy director of the National Information Center, told Arab News: “We need to have clear work procedures before we reach the phase of agreements that achieve the interests of the parties concerned. The development of AI research and innovation have really begun now.

“The summit was a resounding success and the participants were supposed to be physically present but we decided to organize it virtually and it came out well. We are proud of the speakers. Over 12,000 people attended virtually and over 60 speakers gave speeches.

“AI is replete with challenges and questions which need to be answered. Saudi Arabia organized this international dialogue so that initiatives and solutions come from here,” he added.

“The success of the first virtual summit gives us hope that the second one will succeed with physical presence of all participants and attendees. At SDAIA we look forward to AI global dialogue and enhancing Saudi Arabia’s position as a global AI hub. This is one of the reasons why we organized the event.”

Charles Yang, president of Huawei Middle East, said: “Huawei has adopted an ambitious long-term research and development strategy regarding AI, creating unprecedented opportunities through the synergy of AI with 5G connectivity, cloud, computing, and industry applications. In cooperation with SDAIA, we look forward to creating new value across these tech domains, collaborating with local AI developer and industry partners to transform the Kingdom into a leading data-driven economy.”

Houlin Zhao, ITU secretary-general, said: “AI is being used to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to the (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic. With only 10 years left to achieve the UN sustainable development goals, ITU looks forward to working with SDAIA to develop projects and initiatives that can accelerate the progress toward the SDGs and promote AI as a force for good for humanity and the planet.”

The Global AI Summit is an international showcase for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help achieve the objectives of Vision 2030, strengthen the nation’s role and spearhead global efforts in AI.

It is a unique annual platform that encourages discussions, collaborations and networking opportunities between thought leaders, innovators and decision-makers from all over the world, with the aim of mapping the future of AI.


Stock markets set for best month ever; gold and dollar pay the price

Updated 01 December 2020

Stock markets set for best month ever; gold and dollar pay the price

  • November’s record 13 percent leap has added $6.7 trillion — or $155 million a minute — to the value of world equities

NEW YORK: World stock markets dipped on Monday to close a record-breaking month as the prospect of a vaccine-driven economic recovery next year and further stimulus measures by central banks eclipsed immediate concerns about the spiking coronavirus pandemic.

November’s record 13 percent leap has added $6.7 trillion — or $155 million a minute — to the value of world equities.

At the same time, oil, industrial commodities and other risk assets have surged, with emerging-market currencies posting their largest gains in almost two years, while safe-havens such as the dollar and gold slipped.

“It has been a very, very strong month for markets, especially on the equity side but also on the fixed income side too,” said Rabobank’s head of macro strategy, Elwin de Groot.

The positive developments on vaccines and the swiftness with which they are likely to be rolled out have been key drivers.

“And this market still remains very much supported by liquidity from the central banks,” De Groot said. With the European Central Bank set to provide more stimulus next month, “the market view seems to be, what can possibly go wrong?”

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.39 percent following modest declines in Asia and mixed trading in Europe. Many European markets are boasting their best month ever, with France up 21 percent and Italy almost 26 percent. The Nikkei’s 15 percent leap in Japan was its best month since 1994.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 190.36 points, or 0.64 percent, to 29,720.01, the S&P 500 lost 6.4 points, or 0.18 percent, to 3,631.95 and the Nasdaq Composite added 29.91 points, or 0.25 percent, to 12,235.76.

The surge in stocks has put competitive pressure on safe-haven bonds, but much of that has been cushioned by expectations of more asset buying by central banks.

US benchmark 10-year notes last fell 2/32 in price to yield 0.8471 percent, from 0.842 percent late on Friday.

“Markets are overbought and at risk of a short-term pause,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.

“However, we are now in a seasonally strong time of year and investors are yet to fully discount the potential for a very strong recovery next year in growth and profits as stimulus combines with vaccines.”

Helping sentiment further on Monday was a survey showing that factory activity in China beat forecasts in November, and the country’s central bank surprised with an extra helping of cheap loans.

Moderna provided the regular Monday dose of vaccine news, saying it was applying for emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration and conditional approval from the EU.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies to Congress on Tuesday amid speculation of further policy action at its next meeting in mid-December.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index was pinned at 91.704 after shedding 2.4 percent for the month to lows last seen in mid-2018.

One major casualty of the rush to risk has been gold, which was near a five-month trough at $1,769 an ounce, having shed 5.6 percent in November.

Oil, in contrast, has benefited nearly 30 percent from the prospect of a revival in demand should vaccines allow travel and transport to resume next year.