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 Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022
Updated 9 sec ago

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022
  • In unified sports, players with and without intellectual disabilities compete on the same team

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian team made history by winning the gold medal in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022 on Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In the final match, Saudi Arabia defeated Romania 3-1.

The Saudi team competed in the Special Olympics Unified Cup for the first time, along with 22 other teams from around the world, from July 31 to Aug. 6 in Detroit, Michigan.

In unified sports, players with and without intellectual disabilities compete on the same team.

The UAE, Egypt and Morocco were among the Arab teams that competed in the cup.

Other teams included Brazil, the US, Jamaica, South Korea, Nigeria, Paraguay, Romania, and Singapore.

Chairman of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors Dr. Timothy Shriver congratulated the Saudi team on their gold medal win.

Director of the Saudi Special Olympics Abdulrahman Al-Quraishi also congratulated the players, technical and administrative staff, and members of the Saudi Mission for their outstanding achievement.


Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition
Updated 07 August 2022

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition
  • Makkah scouts claimed second place in the Fawzi Farghali Prize for Creativity in Islamic Scout Work
  • Farghali was an Egyptian who served as the Arab Regional Scout Executive for the World Scout Bureau in 2009

JEDDAH: The Makkah youth scout team won second place at this year’s Fawzi Farghali Prize for Creativity in Islamic Scout Work, it was announced on Sunday.

The prize is organized by the International Union of Muslim Scouts, which said the Makkah scouts had come second out of 59 entrants.

Head of the Makkah team Bakr Al-Tumbkti said the scouts were committed to the highest professional standards.

He stressed the importance of attracting more members who were scientifically, practically, and academically compatible to reach the widest section of society.

“Contributing to all national and religious occasions within governmental, private, voluntary, economic, sports, cultural, social and commercial entities is a key to success,” he said.

He added that the presence of the Makkah youth scout team in these fields had helped them to attain the silver-level place in the global scout field for social initiatives.

The International Union of Muslim Scouts tweeted on Saturday: “Cairo will host a ceremony to honor the winners of the late Fawzi Farghali prizes for creativity in Islamic scouting work on September 17, 2022, at the headquarter of the Egyptian Federation for Scouts and Guides.”

Its secretary-general Dr. Zuhair Ghoneim said the union had adopted this award, which carried the name of one of the best scout leaders in Islamic countries, the late Fawzi Farghali, as appreciation for the efforts, support, and services that he had provided to the union.

Ghoneim wished the winners every success. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to the chairman of the media, communication, and documentation committee at the union, his colleagues, and the award committee for their efforts.

Farghali was an Egyptian who served as the Arab Regional Scout Executive for the World Scout Bureau in 2009.

In 1986, he received the 186th Bronze Wolf from the World Scout Committee for his exceptional services.


‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 August 2022

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
  • Six leading Saudi women to advise students on business startups
  • Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University to run 6-month course

JEDDAH: Luxury watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin has launched its second “One of Not Many” business mentorship program in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

The company had initially run its first project in the UAE in 2020.

Six Saudi women leaders have been selected to mentor undergraduate students over six months. The program is aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 and aims to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs.

Christophe Ramel, regional Brand Director Middle East at Vacheron Constantin, said: “The Kingdom represents huge promises and great potential, and the Maison values are aligned closely with Saudi Vision 2030.

“We, at Vacheron Constantin, realize the importance of passing down skills to the next generation to support the leaders of tomorrow. We wish all selected students a fruitful program ahead and look forward to witnessing them excel towards their career ambitions.”

Shahd Al-Shehail, entrepreneur and co-founder of Ethical Luxury Brand Abadia, said that the small choices people make every day matter and young people should continue to work hard and not be afraid of failure.

Aya Al-Bitar, Saudi product and furniture designer, and founder of AYA the Art of Living, said she would encourage students to explore their heritage and individuality if they choose to enter her field.

Emon Shakoor, founder and CEO of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia's first female-focused and inclusivity accelerator, said: “As an entrepreneur, it’s not about how much resources you have but about how resourceful you can be. Every individual has the power to create the life that they have dreamed of and to achieve it. This program will definitely allow the student to understand and execute the things that they actually want in life and never take no for an answer.”

Nora Aldabal, arts and creative industries executive director at The Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Saudi Arabia is a gold mine of inspiration; inspiration attracts talent and talent gets ideas. This program will accelerate individuals to be the most creative version of themselves.”

Nouf Al-Moajil, strategic analyst and CEO of the Eastern Province Social Responsibility Council, said she would advise students to explore and follow their passion, even in a new area of business. They should try to be as authentic as possible, she said.

Basma El-Khereiji, chef and entrepreneur, and founder of the Social Kitchen, said students should be passionate about what they do and allow people to feel and appreciate it.

After successfully completing the program, students have the opportunity to embark on an internship program with Vacheron Constantin or any other Richemont Maison.


Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
  • “Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News

RIYADH: Many young singers have discovered a home for their talent thanks to Saudi Arabia’s increased focus on music and the establishment of a music commission in 2020 that aims to develop non-discriminatory access to music education.

Noha Al-Sehemi, a 17-year-old Saudi singer, is one of them.

At 15, she was able to produce her first song on social media. Her songs highlight some traumas that she has experienced and the feeling of being misunderstood, which sparked the inner struggles that many teenagers feel.

Now she has launched a song called “Good Luck Sleepin’,” where she speaks about this inner conflict.

“Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News.

Her song was played on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music. She has performed her work at a series of events, one of them at the American embassy.

“I was flown out to Washington, DC by the Saudi embassy for the celebration of the national day in 2019,” she said.

Al-Sehemi prefers English music due to her family’s exposure to it.

“Growing up with a musical family helped me a lot, and when I was a child I always loved games that had music in them, like Guitar Hero, and I was curious about music,” she said. “I was exposed to many song genres and was influenced by them.”

Al-Sehemi describes her music genre as funk and likes classic rock, hip hop, R&B and jazz.

She plays piano and guitar. Although she has written a number of songs, she has decided to focus more on her vocals at the moment.

Al-Sehemi met a group of talented people in Open Night Mice, who helped her to produce her song in 2019.

“We got to know each other at an open mic night in August 2019 and it’s a Saudi Music Community initiative, and we recorded the song in my house,” she said.

“They all put in their own touches, so it was like a collective project with many different perspectives and tastes embedded in the song,” she said.

Al-Sehemi intends to record an entire album where she expresses her opinions and speaks directly to other teenagers who share her sentiments.

“I have been working on an album for three years now and many songs will be out soon and the lyrics of the music will tell you so much about what I feel, and I stopped being a stubborn person who wants to be a perfectionist about every song,” she said. “I usually throw away any song I don’t like initially, but now I just do what I believe in and everything else will follow.”


Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
Updated 07 August 2022

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
  • The world’s largest date palm oasis is generating a new era of prosperity

RIYADH: Al-Ahsa, the world’s largest date palm oasis, is generating a new era of prosperity following the launch of a new development authority.

On May 12, the Kingdom formed the board of directors for the Al-Ahsa Development Authority, headed by Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province.

The move aims to enhance the governorate’s potential while helping develop the tourism, heritage and cultural aspects of Al-Ahsa.

The authority will create a balanced and sustainable development environment that supports the governorate’s economy and promotes development, modernization and diversity, according to the state press agency.

“The decision reflects the leadership’s keenness to invest in the comparative advantage of Al-Ahsa and to utilize it in economic projects that will align with Vision 2030,” Ibraheem Alshekmubarak, secretary-general at Al-Ahsa Chamber of Commerce, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Ibraheem Alshekmubarak

The city of 1.3 million people was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2018.

UNESCO said: “The city has an ancient tradition of handicrafts, considered cultural and social practices passed on from generation to generation.

“Around 50 expressions of crafts and folk art have remained throughout the city’s history and bear witness to Al-Ahsa’s scenic wealth, including textiles from palm trees, pottery, weaving and joinery.”

Boosting tourism

The governorate hosts 36 weekly open markets and stages several festivals a year.

“When we talk about tourism in Al-Ahsa, we are talking about agricultural, heritage and natural tourism,” Alshekmubarak said.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Tourism launched a high-profile investment conference in the city called Destination Tomorrow.
The conference showcased Saudi destinations to local investors and international operators.

“Post pandemic, people are a little bit more conservative internationally regarding cross-border investment. But we are proving to be a destination attracting quite a decent amount of interest,” Mahmoud Abdulhadi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for investment attraction, told Arab News.

The Kingdom seeks to generate 10 percent of the gross domestic product from the tourism sector and to attract over 100 million visitors by the end of this decade, creating an additional 1 million jobs in the sector.

“We want to make the sector stand on its own two feet. So we are keen on large private sector investment to come in, even as we are mindful that the whole sector is built on small and medium enterprises,” added Abdulhadi.

The city’s chamber of commerce led several initiatives to support SMEs, monitoring the sectors most affected by the pandemic to keep them formulating plans and drawing strategies that help them overcome the damage.

“Al-Ahsa Chamber organized a set of development initiatives and advisory services provided to entrepreneurs through the Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman Center for Business Development,” Alshekmubarak added.

Airport expansion

Al-Ahsa airport’s capacity will more than double the expectations of fast regional growth, Fahad Alharbi, the CEO of Dammam Airports Co., said in an earlier interview with Arab News.

The city’s airport has a capacity of around 400,000 passengers but aspires to reach 1 million, Alharbi added.

Saudi Aramco mainly uses the facility, but before the pandemic struck, there was commercial activity from two or three local destinations and another two or three international sites.

“With the economic and tourism boom expected in Al-Ahsa, the development of Al-Ahsa International Airport is the most in need of projects at present,” said Alshekmubarak.

Business destination

Essam Al-Mulla

The city is already growing in businesses as the Ministry of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing announced in June that the investment opportunities in the city increased by 53 percent in 2021, with 362 available options on its online portal.

The total value of these investments exceeded SR275 million, Essam Al-Mulla, the mayor of Al-Ahsa, told Arab News.

The available opportunities in the portal in 2022 already reached 112 investments, said the Saudi Minister of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, according to the Saudi Press Agency.