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 29 August 2021

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.”


UN travel chief hails Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector successes during pandemic

UN travel chief hails Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector successes during pandemic
Updated 29 sec ago

UN travel chief hails Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector successes during pandemic

UN travel chief hails Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector successes during pandemic
  • Saudi government’s intervention to support its domestic industry cemented its prominent position among global bodies

MADRID: Saudi Arabia’s successful efforts to keep its tourism sector afloat at the height of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has helped project the country’s influential voice on the international stage, a UN regional travel chief has claimed.

Basmah Al-Mayman, the UN World Tourism Organization’s director for the Middle East, said the Saudi government’s intervention to support its domestic industry had further cemented its prominent position among global bodies.

The Kingdom has for a number of years been an active member of the UNWTO’s executive council for tourism and is vice president of its current session.

“The organization has recently opened its first regional office in the Middle East and the Kingdom hosted, for the first time, a regular session, which was the meeting of the regional committee for the Middle East, in May,” Al-Mayman added.

She pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s participation and contributions to the WTO had helped transform it into a specialized agency of the UN while encouraging the adoption of Arabic as an official language in the organization, and the Kingdom now held key positions on the executive boards of a number of high-profile international organizations.

While the COVID-19 pandemic had crippled the tourism sector in many parts of the world, Al-Mayman said: “The Kingdom intensified its efforts, along with the UNWTO, and several member states, to form the International Committee for Tourism Crises, the Kingdom’s membership of which is represented by its Ministry of Tourism which has also hosted the committee’s work during the current year.” She noted that Saudi Arabia’s success in opening up domestic tourism during the summer of 2020 while maintaining virus health and safety precautions had been used as an example for other countries to follow.


Thousands of volunteers in Riyadh help plant trees in shape of map of Saudi Arabia

Thousands of volunteers in Riyadh help plant trees in shape of map of Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 September 2021

Thousands of volunteers in Riyadh help plant trees in shape of map of Saudi Arabia

Thousands of volunteers in Riyadh help plant trees in shape of map of Saudi Arabia
  • The completed project, covering 170,000 square meters is expected to be one of the biggest afforested maps in the world

RIYADH: Thousands of Riyadh residents turned out to take part in a tree-planting project as part of the Khadra Ya Darna (Green is our Homeland) initiative launched to celebrate the 91st Saudi National Day on Sept. 23.

The trees are being planted close to King Khalid International Airport in the shape of the map of Saudi Arabia, which will be visible from the air to travelers as they fly in. It will cover an area of 170,000 square meters, which organizers say will make it one of the biggest afforested maps in the world, and an important city landmark.

The project is part of a wider Green Riyadh initiative and its director, Abdul Aziz Al-Moqbel, is delighted that so many local people volunteered to help.

“We were happy with the huge participation of young and old from all over Riyadh to support this national initiative on the 91st National Day,” he said. “We want everybody to be part of Green Riyadh, which is an environmental and sustainable initiative that will make the inhabitants of Riyadh proud of their city’s present and future.”

He added that the initiative aims to increase the share of green space in the city from the current 1.5 percent to 9.1 percent by 2030 in an effort to improve air quality, reduce temperatures, and protect the environment and biodiversity.

The participation of local people in Green Riyadh is considered one the most important elements of the project, which aims to plant 7.5 million trees in the city and is considered one of the biggest urban afforestation projects in the world.

It is one of the main projects launched in the capital by King Salman, based on initiatives introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Commission for Riyadh, to help achieve the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 to enhance and develop Riyadh so that it ranks in economic terms as one of the top 10 cities in the world.


Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southwest Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southwest Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 September 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southwest Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southwest Saudi Arabia
  • Houthi militia’s escalation in attacks is deliberate attempt to target civilians: Coalition

RIYADH: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a booby-trapped Houthi drone launched toward Saudi Arabia’s southwestern city of Abha on Friday.

The militia’s escalation in attacks is a deliberate attempt to target civilians, the coalition said. 

On Thursday, the Iran-backed militia launched five armed drones toward Saudi Arabia as people celebrated the Kingdom’s 91st national day. All the drones were intercepted. 

On Wednesday, the Houthis launched three drones toward the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait, all of which were shot down.


Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 24 September 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 4 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 535,842
  • A total of 8,688 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced four deaths from COVID-19 and 51 new infections on Friday.

Of the new cases, 14 were recorded in Riyadh, 12 in Makkah, five in the Eastern Province, four in Madinah, three in Jazan, three in Najran, two in Asir, two in Tabuk, one in Hail, one in Al-Jouf and one in the Northern Borders region.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 535,842 after 59 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,688 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 41.3 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran

Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran
Updated 24 September 2021

Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran

Saudi foreign minister meets US Special Envoy for Iran

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan met on Friday with the US Special Envoy for Iran Affairs Robert Malley, state news agency SPA reported.
The two officials met on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York.
During the meeting, they discussed enhancing joint action, and developments towards the nuclear program.
Iran has been urged to return rapidly to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiations in Vienna to reduce tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.