Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts

Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts
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Updated 25 January 2022

Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts

Tech firms opening academies in Riyadh a ‘landmark move,’ say experts
  • Microsoft, Apple, and more will help create digital capability centers and innovation hubs for tech startups in the Kingdom
  • Localization of Information and Communication Technology sector aims to provide 20,000 jobs by end of 2022

RIYADH: Global technology firms signing agreements to establish academies and training programs in Riyadh is a “landmark move” that will transform Saudi Arabia into a leading technology hub, experts said.

“This new initiative aims to set the base for the Kingdom to become one of the top five countries in the world, which is indeed commendable,” Muhammad Khurram Khan, a cybersecurity professor at the King Saud University, told Arab News.

“It is pertinent to mention that all such programs will transform Saudi Arabia into the global leading tech hub that underpins the ambitious goals of Vision 2030.”

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced a series of technology initiatives aimed at improving the digital skills of 100,000 Saudi youngsters by 2030. The intivives were introduced at the technology event “Launch” which was co-hosted by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones; the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; and the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority.

Leading global technology companies formed local partnerships to develop digital skills of Saudi youth and push for innovation in tech startups in the Kingdom. The first academy to be launched will be Apple Academy.

“The ‘Launch’ aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a knowledge-based economy,” Khan said.

“The initiative is supported by a large number of programs that include establishing training academies, launching bootcamps, organizing hackathons, and providing entrepreneurial support to local talent to spur startup culture in the country.”

The skill development programs and training offered by top global tech giants will enhance the programming skills for local talent, Khan said, as it will also nurture an entrepreneurial mindset and foster innovation. 

“These initiatives would also contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s cybersecurity, AI, drones, and game development ecosystem on par with other developed countries,” he said.

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Sawaha unveiled the first Saudi-made smart chip to be used in military, civil and commercial applications at the “Launch” event.

In addition, MCIT established the National Technology Development Program with a goal of making the Kingdom the world’s leading technology country. The Saudi Chinese eWTP Arabia Capital fund, which seeks to support technology startups in the Kingdom, was also unveiled at the “Launch” event.

In other developments at the event, the Tuwaiq 1,000 initiative was launched to set up 40 training camps across Saudi Arabia, targeting 10,000 technical talents.

“The signing of the agreements by the global technology firms will help raise the national digital capabilities and digital innovation centers in programming,” Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, advisor and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said.

“It will promote trust between technical companies and startups on one hand, and financing institutions on the other.”

According to ​​Al-Obaidy, training Saudi youths in cyber security, programming, artificial intelligence, and video games at the academies will support talented Saudis — especially women — as it will also open new opportunities to investors.

“Graduates of these academies will have proper skills and training needed by the job market,” Al-Obaidy said. “That will increase the hiring of Saudis and have a positive impact on the Saudi economy, its diversification, knowledge transfer and increased participation of women in the job market.”

Meanwhile, spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Saad Al-Hammad, said the decision to “localize the Information and Communication Technology sector and customer service profession,” will have a huge impact on the country.

As part of a series of Saudization decisions by the ministry for various sectors, it aims to provide 20,000 jobs by the end of next year. Al-Hammad said the decision has provided 8,000 jobs in the private sector so far.

The decision was taken in cooperation with other government agencies such as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Communications and Information Technology Commission and the National Cybersecurity Authority.

“The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development aims to limit the outsourcing of such services outside the Kingdom,” Al-Obaidy said. “It aims to support the Saudi economy, increase the value of job opportunities, and protect data and information as well as improve customer experience.”


Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
Updated 17 sec ago

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 622,087
  • A total of 8,929 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 4,738 new infections on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 1,559 were recorded in Riyadh, 573 in Jeddah, 189 in Dammam, 172 in Hofuf, 156 in Makkah, and 114 in Jazan. Several other cities recorded less than one hundred new cases each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 622,087 after 4,973 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,929 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 56.2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 min 30 sec ago

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
  • Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits

JEDDAH: Intrepid expats Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and their son Noah are on a mission to explore Saudi Arabia and reveal to the world the country’s natural beauty, incredible landscape and authentic culture.

They have been going on epic adventures that take them off the beaten track across the Kingdom for almost two years, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of friends they describe as “a united team.”

They film their trips and experiences, and Jenny edits the footage to create entertaining travelogues that are uploaded to the couple’s YouTube channel, called Epic Everyday Adventures. Launched in August 2020, it now has more than 25,000 subscribers and has become particularly popular with Saudi viewers.

“We are so humbled to know how viewers have been inspired by our travels through some of the most remote parts of Saudi Arabia,” Dale told Arab News. “With more than 45 videos of adventures, we have seen families and individuals alike find inspiration and education through sharing our story and experiences.”

Dale, a US national who works in the aerospace industry as an aircraft mechanic and advisor, said he came to the Kingdom in 2015 to experience life in another country and grow as a person. Jenny, a nurse from the Philippines, came to work in Saudi Arabia in 2009. The couple married in 2016 and Noah, was born in Tabuk in 2017. They said they fell in love not only with each other but also their adopted country.

Dale said he comes from a small town in the US and grew up camping and hiking. Jenny, on the other hand, who grew up in a city and wanted to experience the great outdoors.

“Being outdoors and exploring nature really creates some positive character traits and memories, and we wanted to share and create our own experiences with Noah and give him an opportunity to grow up with those amazing outdoor adventures,” said Dale.

Along the way, he added, they have made some great friends.

“One of the things that makes Saudi Arabia really pull on our hearts is how easy it is to meet new people and become real friends,” said Dale. “People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.

“One of the things we enjoy the most about our YouTube channel is how many awesome people we have been able to meet here in Saudi Arabia and establish personal relationships with.

“People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.”

The idea for exploring the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia came to the couple about two years ago, after s trip to AlUla.

“We had gone on a tour to AlUla in early 2020, around February,” said Dale. “We enjoyed the scenery and the places and the desert so much that after that trip we knew that we wanted to continue and explore more. So, definitely our AlUla experience was the turning point that motivated and inspired us to explore more.”

Shannon had some vacation time saved up and Jenny, who was by then a stay-at-home mom, learned how to become a videographer and editor to produce their YouTube videos. They also invested in proper equipment and a new vehicle suitable for off-road exploring and began their adventure of a lifetime.

“After our AlUla trip, we bought some gear and changed our vehicle to a proper off-road exploring vehicle, a Nissan Patrol Super Safari, and we slowly started exploring the Kingdom.

“We fell in love with the landscapes, the open-air museum of history you find here and the hospitality and friendliness of the people of all areas … and then we started exploring. We just became naturally curious to see and know more.”

Venturing into the desert wilderness is not easy and requires a financial investment. As their videos grew in popularity the Shannons last year joined Patreon, a platform that provides content creators with the tools to build a subscription service for fans of their work. For the Shannons, it means that people who enjoy their videos can contribute toward the costs of creating future content. They said that about 70 percent of their supporters on Patreon are Saudi.

“We are so thankful for their support and hope to grow our small Patreon family so we can continue these adventures,” said Dale.

“It is expensive to take trips as much as we do. We don’t have any sponsors or anything like that, so up until recently we financed our own adventures so that we could continue sharing our experiences here in Saudi Arabia. We are thankful for the support of our small Patreon family.”

There have been some challenging moments during the family’s adventures, including a worrying incident during a journey through Al-Nafud Al-Kabir (The Great Desert) this month, when they were accompanied by other members of their team.

“We had prepared for this trip six months in advance,” said Dale. “This was the final leg of our overlanding trip. The terrain is difficult and full of sand dunes. We entered the desert just north of Hail and drove about 230km into the desert through the sand dunes. There was no cell service.

“We camped for three nights and drove for three days. The trip through the desert consumed most of our fuel and for some, all of their fuel.

“The stress you face and the quick decisions that have to be made are really challenging but, at the end of the day, it is so rewarding. I am happy our overlanding team trusted me enough to let me lead the expedition through Al-Nafud.”

His family has done so much traveling in the Kingdom during the past two years that Shannon said it is hard to keep count of their destinations.

“I am not exactly sure on the number of places we visited, but we drive everywhere we go and we have driven from Haql in the northwest all the way down to Fayfa in the south, and everywhere in between,” he said. “We have been from Hail down to Riyadh and in between. We hope to get enough time in the future to make it to the north and the east of the Kingdom.”

Wherever they have traveled in Saudi Arabia, Shannon said he has never felt concerned for the safety of his family.

“I mention this on many occasions in our videos because in comparison to most places I have been around the world, it’s extremely safe here and this is part of the reason we feel so comfortable exploring here,” he said.

In fact the most difficult aspect of the experience in Saudi Arabia so far has been language barrier.

“It would be really great to be able to learn Arabic,” he added.

Both Shannon and his wife said they adapted easily to life in Saudi Arabia after leaving their home countries behind.

“We found it to be quite easy transitioning to living in a foreign country,” he said. “I think part of the reason is because we had set our minds that this is what we wanted to do, but also because we both really fell in love with the people and the culture here in Saudi Arabia — those two things made the transition extremely easy.”

Asked if he had any advice for newcomers to the Kingdom or people considering moving there, Shannon said: “My advice to others moving to Saudi Arabia is always to come with an open mind, embrace the culture and the people, and once you arrive and settle in, go out there and meet people and get to know the people of Saudi Arabia. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.”


Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
Updated 27 January 2022

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
  • The event, hosted by the Kingdom’s Museum Commission, explored ways in which the role of women could be enhanced in the sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Museum Commission hosted an open discussion on Wednesday about the empowerment women in the museums sector.

The event, at the National Museum in Riyadh, was moderated by Maha bint Amer Al-Shukhil, a faculty member at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, and the participants included Stefano Carboni, the CEO of the commission.

The topics addressed during the discussion included the roles and work of Saudi women, creating change in the Museums Commission, and the need to develop job opportunities for women in the museums field.

Participants also discussed how to foster cooperation between universities and the Museums Commission, the role and importance of museums in society, encouraging and highlighting efforts by women in the field, providing training and volunteering opportunities in the commission, and giving women more opportunities to work in the museums sector.

Carboni said that the objectives of the commission include providing advisory services, providing specialized courses and programs on museum management, offering opportunities to learn about specialized establishments in the sector, and working to develop communication skills between museums and visitors.

On the sidelines of the session, Hind Al-Turki, the head of the history department at Princess Nourah University, spoke about the necessity of offering field-training opportunities for female students specializing in the museums sector, to improve their knowledge and provide practical experience, and to present programs and workshops.

The commission said that the session was part of its efforts to communicate with the public and promote dialogue with workers in the sector to identify their needs and aspirations, and work to achieve them, based on the authority’s responsibility for developing and enhancing the museums sector in the Kingdom, and supporting and empowering its employees.
 


KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen
Updated 27 January 2022

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed a cooperation agreement with UNICEF to provide basic health services for mothers and newborns, according to the humanitarian response plan for Yemen, with a value of $10 million.
KSrelief supervisor general Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore signed the agreement, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The agreement stipulates providing free basic health services for obstetrics and gynaecology emergency and care services, increasing the preparedness of the Yemeni health sector with medical equipment for newborns, localizing the sustainability of providing health services for mothers and children, and training 156 midwives for emergency cases to obstetric care and emergency care for newborns. The agreement is expected to benefit 43,533 individuals in several Yemeni governorates.
It is part of the humanitarian and aid projects implemented by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, in partnership with UNICEF to develop the Yemeni health sector and increase care services offered to children and mothers in all Yemeni governorates.

 


DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day

DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day
Updated 27 January 2022

DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day

DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day

RIYADH: The Embassy of India in Riyadh celebrated the 73rd Republic Day with great fervor to honor the historic date of Jan. 26, 1950, when India’s constitution came into effect and the country became a republic.

The celebration began in the morning with a flag-hoisting ceremony on the embassy premises, where Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia Dr. Ausaf Sayeed unfurled the national flag of India.

Sayeed extended greetings to all the attendees at the function and to all Indians residing in Saudi Arabia.

“On this joyous occasion of the 73rd Republic Day of India, I would like to extend my warm greetings and felicitations to all Indian nationals, persons of Indian origin, and friends of India in the Kingdom,” envoy tweeted.

He also talked of the growing ties of India and Saudi Arabia. He said that since independence, India’s relationship with the Kingdom has evolved into a multifaceted and mutually beneficial strategic partnership encompassing several key areas, including defense and security cooperation, investment, healthcare, technology, energy and food security.

The envoy also read out the message of the President of India, Ramnath Kovind, on the occasion, which read: “My heartiest greetings to all of you, in India and abroad, on the 73rd Republic Day! It is an occasion to celebrate what is common to us all, our Indian-ness. It was on this day in 1950 that this sacred essence of us all assumed a formal shape. That day, India was established as the largest democratic republic and ‘we the people’ put into effect a constitution that is an inspired document of our collective vision. It is this spirit of unity and of being one nation which is celebrated every year as Republic Day.”

This was followed by cultural performances given by the students of Indian schools in Riyadh.

The event was attended by members of the Indian community based in the Kingdom.

The celebration holds greater significance for Indians across the world as India is celebrating its 75th year of independence. India gained its independence on Aug. 15, 1947. This celebration also coincides with 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and Saudi Arabia.