How AI and Robotics will help deliver The Saudi Green Initiative

How AI and Robotics will help deliver The Saudi Green Initiative
Jizan, Saudi Arabia. (Getty Images)
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Updated 22 October 2021

How AI and Robotics will help deliver The Saudi Green Initiative

How AI and Robotics will help deliver The Saudi Green Initiative
  • Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum to be held in Riyadh on 23-24 October
  • Saudi Arabia plans to plant 10 billion trees

RIYADH: The forthcoming Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum, to be held in Riyadh on 23-24 October, is set to be a milestone in the historic effort to transform the oil-based economy of Saudi Arabia into a cleaner and more sustainable one.
In addition to planting 10 billion trees (covering 30 percent of total land area), the SGI aims to create vast protected zones, conserve marine life around the coasts and encourage alternative forms of agriculture. One key aspect of this sea change will be the contribution of technology to the greening of Saudi Arabia.
A leader in the realm of agritech is Dr. Nahid Sidki, chief technology officer with Research Products Development Company (RPDC), a PIF-owned not-for-profit resource for the commercialization of Saudi-based research and breakthrough technology.
With a 30-year background in Silicon Valley, where he was executive director at the Stanford Research Institute, Dr. Sidki is an authority on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
“The SGI is a great initiative that can produce a clean future, reduce carbon emissions and impact climate change,” Dr. Sidki told Arab News. “AI and robotics can play a major role in this, not only here in Saudi Arabia but across the Gulf region.”
But how exactly does hi-tech have anything to do with planting trees and growing crops? The answer lies partly in the sheer volume of what the SGI envisions.
“To plant 10 billion trees in a country like Saudi Arabia, one has to ask how they will be monitored and how their health will be sustained for decades to come. We cannot rely on just hoping for the best. We need to look to the ultimate goal and then work backwards in terms of the development and implementation of technology. It’s like a closed-loop ecosystem: planting, monitoring, irrigating and harvesting the trees.”
A primary consideration of the SGI is the use (and misuse) of water, a precious resource in the desert kingdom. Conventional irrigation methods often lead to significant wastage.
Smart dust
“AI can play a crucial role here via smart, efficient irrigation systems that utilize sensors and data analytics to monitor climate conditions and soil moisture,” Dr. Sidki said. “If every tree and every plant had sensors to monitor the condition of the soil surrounding the roots, this could determine exactly when it requires water and exactly what amount.”
Such AI-based solutions are already being put into practice, for example in the form of “smart dust,” nanoparticles that communicate with each other, enabling complex data collection and efficient decision-making in all aspects of agriculture.
“Land health monitoring is also very important,” said Dr. Sidki. “Throughout the life cycle of crops, drones can enable precision spraying and maximize seed pollination, and the same kind of sensor technology can be used for livestock monitoring, crop spraying and smart harvesting.”
These technologies, combined with local and global advances in genetic engineering, could soon turn the parched landscape of Saudi Arabia into an agricultural powerhouse with many verdant oases. Having said that, the greening of Saudi Arabia will require not just the conservation but also the production of potable water.
Some 60 percent of the Kingdom’s fresh water is currently supplied by energy-intensive seawater desalination plants reliant on polluting fossil fuels, an unsustainable solution in view of the SGI. But new desalination and water filtration techniques are emerging quickly, positioning the KSA as a hub for proprietary green technology.
In one RPDC-assisted project called the Red Sea Farm, a group of KAUST researchers have successfully grown tomatoes using a mix of 75 percent seawater and 25 percent freshwater, a scalable method that was recognized and lauded by the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“The idea is to develop smart technology to reduce the cost of desalination,” said Dr. Sidki. “Imagine if we could utilize solar energy for desalination. We would have unlimited fresh water from the ocean, which we are surrounded by in the KSA.”
The SGI represents one aspect of Saudi Arabia’s broader 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), the fusion of AI, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering and quantum computing, blurring the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds. This is a highly collaborative movement involving numerous government bodies, PIF-owned companies (both commercial and not-for-profit), academic institutions, corporations, startups and SMEs.
“Robotics and AI will be playing a major role in every sector of society,” said Dr. Sidki. “And here in Saudi Arabia we have huge public and private funds to build capabilities.”
Innovation largely comes down to talent and education, and Dr. Sidki is again optimistic in this regard. “Saudi Arabia has a population of about 35 million, 70 percent of which is 25 or younger. And the percentage of those with a higher degree is very high compared to most other countries. In terms of PhD-holders the KSA probably ranks the highest in the region.”
Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of a major transformation that will involve a great deal of hard work and a lot of imagination.
“There’s an endless list of ways that new forms of technology can improve the quality of our daily life,” Dr. Sidki said. “People need to be very passionate about what they’re doing, and to be aware of the contributions they can make to their society, in order to have a huge impact. I think the combination of education and passion, and that impact, are the ingredients for a society to successfully achieve whatever it wants to do.”


Saudi Arabia raises January Arab Light crude prices to Asia

Saudi Arabia raises January Arab Light crude prices to Asia
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 4 sec ago

Saudi Arabia raises January Arab Light crude prices to Asia

Saudi Arabia raises January Arab Light crude prices to Asia

Saudi Arabia's state oil producer Aramco raised its January official selling price to Asia for its flagship Arab Light crude to $3.30 a barrel versus Oman/Dubai crude, up $0.60 from December, the company said on Sunday.

The company set the Arab Light OSP to Northwestern Europe at minus $1.30 per barrel versus ICE Brent and to the United States at plus $2.15 per barrel over ASCI (Argus Sour Crude Index).


UAE’s BLOOVO, Egypt’s CI Capital sign agreement on streamline recruitment using AI

UAE’s BLOOVO, Egypt’s CI Capital sign agreement on streamline recruitment using AI
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 38 min 12 sec ago

UAE’s BLOOVO, Egypt’s CI Capital sign agreement on streamline recruitment using AI

UAE’s BLOOVO, Egypt’s CI Capital sign agreement on streamline recruitment using AI
  • This comes as BLOOVO pushes forward with efforts to expand across Egypt

RIYADH: UAE-based BLOOVO announced the signing of a partnership agreement with Egypt’s investment banking company CI Capital Holdings to supply it with an artificial intelligence recruitment tool.

The technology company, a specialist provider of  AI-powered recruitment solution, HYRDD will be supplying the AI-powered Applicant Tracking System. 

This comes as BLOOVO pushes forward with efforts to expand across Egypt by using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to transform the HR industry. 

“This partnership comes at a time when Egypt’s digital transformation soars as more firms recognise the importance of AI in improving the way firms run their business processes,”   CEO of BLOOVO, Ahmad Khamis, said.

CI Capital Holding, listed on the Egyptian Exchange, offers diversified financial services, including investment banking, leasing, and microfinance products and services. 

The deployment of HYRRD will equip the investment bank’s hiring teams with tools and resources to streamline their recruitment process and eliminate inefficiencies. 


Higher costs, weak demand weigh on Egypt’s private sector

Higher costs, weak demand weigh on Egypt’s private sector
Updated 05 December 2021

Higher costs, weak demand weigh on Egypt’s private sector

Higher costs, weak demand weigh on Egypt’s private sector

CAIRO: Egypt’s private sector experienced a downturn in November due to rising costs and weaker demand, according to IHS Markit.

The Purchasing Manager’s Index hit 48.7 in November, the 12th consecutive month in which the North African country’s in below 50.

Production levels in Egypt’s private sector were down in November. Output has now slipped for the third month in a row, the London-based firm said.

Following four months of jumps, employment was down during the month as new orders in the North African country declined.

“Inflationary pressures and supply shortages were again the most prominent depressors of Egypt’s non-oil economy in November,” David Owen, economist at IHS Markit, said.

Selling prices were on the rise as inflation rate fell marginally from its 38-month high in October. This prompted firms to mark-up their prices by over 10 percent to safeguard their profits


Trump’s social media venture says it has raised $1bn

Trump’s social media venture says it has raised $1bn
Truth Social app logo seen on the smartphone and the Follow the fruth on blurred screen behind. New social media platform from Donald Trump.
Updated 05 December 2021

Trump’s social media venture says it has raised $1bn

Trump’s social media venture says it has raised $1bn
  • He is working to launch a social media app called TRUTH Social that is at least several weeks away

Donald Trump’s new social media venture said on Saturday it had entered into agreements to raise about $1 billion from a group of unidentified investors as it prepares to float in the US stock market.


The capital raise, details of which were first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, underscored the former US president’s ability to attract strong financial backing thanks to his personal and political brand.

He is working to launch a social media app called TRUTH Social that is at least several weeks away.


Digital World Acquisition Corp, the blank-check acquisition firm that will take Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. public by listing it in New York, said it will provide up to $293 million to the partnership with Trump’s media venture, taking the total proceeds to about $1.25 billion.


The $1 billion will be raised through a private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction from “a diverse group of institutional investors,” Trump Media and Digital World said in a statement.

They did not respond to requests to name the investors.


Trump Media inked its deal with Digital World to go public in October at a valuation of $875 million, including debt.

The social media venture is now valued at almost $4 billion based on the price of Digital World shares at the end of trading on Friday.

Trump supporters and day traders snapped up the stock.


Many Wall Street firms such as mutual funds and private equity firms snubbed the opportunity to invest in the PIPE.

Among those investors who participated were hedge funds, family offices and high net-worth individuals, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Family offices manage the wealth of the very rich and their kin.


Some Wall Street investors are reluctant to associate with Trump. He was banned from top social media platforms after the Jan. 6 attack by his supporters on the US Capitol amid concerns he would inspire further violence.

The Capitol attack was based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in last year’s presidential election.


“As our balance sheet expands, Trump Media & Technology Group will be in a stronger position to fight back against the tyranny of Big Tech,” Trump said in a statement on Saturday.


The deal also faces regulatory risk. US Senator Elizabeth Warren asked Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler last month to investigate the planned merger for potential violations of securities laws around disclosure.

The SEC has declined to comment on whether it plans any action.


Trump Media and Digital World said the per-share conversion price of the convertible preferred stock PIPE transaction represents a 20 percent discount to Digital World’s volume-weighted average closing price for the five trading days to Dec. 1, when Reuters broke news of the capital raise.


If that price averages below $56 in the 10 days after the merger with Digital World has been completed, the discount will grow to 40 percent with a floor of $10, the companies added.

Digital World shares ended trading on Friday $44.97.


Trump had 89 million followers on Twitter, 33 million on Facebook and 24.5 million on Instagram at the time he was blocked, according to a presentation on his company’s website.


Investors attending the confidential investor road shows were shown a demo from the planned social media app, which looked like a Twitter feed, Reuters reported.

Since Trump was voted out of office last year, he has repeatedly dropped hints that he might seek the presidency in 2024.


Special purpose acquisition companies such as Digital World had lost much of their luster with retail investors before the Trump media deal came along.

Many of these investors were left with big losses after the companies that merged with SPACs failed to deliver on their ambitious financial projections.


TRUTH Social is scheduled for a full rollout in the first quarter of 2022.

It is the first of three stages in the Trump Media plan, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts, according to the news release.


In a slide deck on its website, the company envisions eventually competing against Amazon.com’s AWS cloud service and Google Cloud.


HyperPay gets regulator approval to boost e-commerce in Saudi Arabia

HyperPay gets regulator approval to boost e-commerce in Saudi Arabia
Updated 05 December 2021

HyperPay gets regulator approval to boost e-commerce in Saudi Arabia

HyperPay gets regulator approval to boost e-commerce in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Local payment gateway HyperPay has obtained a permit from Saudi Payments to activate new “mada” services for its merchants in Saudi Arabia.

The move will address the growing needs of local e-commerce merchants in the Kingdom, the company said in a statement.

“The Saudi market is witnessing a significant growth in e-commerce, as the value of e-commerce sales via ‘mada’ cards in the Saudi market jumped during the third quarter of this year by 89 percent on an annual basis,” Muhannad Ebwini, chief executive officer at HyperPay, said.

HyperPay claims it will make payments easier and more secure and offers pre-saving customer card details, and other billing services.

The payment gateway currently has over 2,000 Saudi merchants on board its platform, and it aims to expand across the Kingdom.