UNDP Saudi Arabia launches accelerator lab 

UNDP Saudi Arabia launches accelerator lab 
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Layan Al-Saud, Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Saudi Arabia and Adam Bouloukos, Resident Representative of UNDP Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo/Ali Al-Dahri)
UNDP Saudi Arabia launches accelerator lab 
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Attendees of the launch of Accelerator Lab conference are representatives of government, private sector, United Nations, non-profit sector, and academia. (AN Photo/Ali Al-Dahri)
UNDP Saudi Arabia launches accelerator lab 
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Adam Bouloukos, Resident Representative of UNDP Saudi Arabia, at the Saudi Accelerator Lab launch on Wednesday at at the UN house in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Ali Al-Dahri)
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Updated 18 November 2021

UNDP Saudi Arabia launches accelerator lab 

UNDP Saudi Arabia launches accelerator lab 

An accelerator lab to find solutions to modern-day challenges was launched by the UN Development Programme in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Adam Bouloukos, who is the UNDP’s resident representative in the Kingdom, said the accelerator lab was launched because ideas and innovation were needed to respond to the government’s changes and its new agenda.

“The nature of our work here is at a quite high policy level, which is part of the reason we launched this accelerator lab, because we need better ideas, more creative ideas, and innovation to respond to the government’s changes and its new agenda,” he told Arab News. “We have in our team three experts. We're looking at different elements of research analysis and experimentation to help us better formulate projects and programs with the goal. All of our projects are in partnership with the government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This program is unusual in UNDP because it's a large learning network.”

He said the accelerator lab initiative was in 91 locations and supported 115 countries, with the aim of finding solutions to developmental challenges and responding to them rapidly and at scale.

The Saudi Accelerator Lab has three core members: Layan Al-Saud, who is the head of solutions mapping, Saud Al-Fassam, head of exploration, and Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi, who is head of experimentation.

Al-Saud’s role is to immerse deeply in communities, identify local solutions, and bridge bottom-up solutions with policy design. Al-Fassam’s responsibility is to shed light on emerging trends, use data science to identify patterns, and make a case for change. Al-Ghamdi's job is to build portfolios of social or environmental solutions, strengthen solutions, and learn through experimentation.

Al-Saud said that Saudi Arabia was still missing a sense of real community engagement. “Sometimes we tend to think that we always want to get something from a global best practice, rather than looking at what the local solutions are and how we can work on that to amplify it. So, one size does not fit all in terms of innovation.  

“What we are trying to do is to hear more from our global counterparts around what they're doing and gain inspiration from that, but not copy-paste what's happening. We tried to see locally what the issues are and work on that as well.”

Bouloukos said the initiative was coming to Saudi Arabia at the right time.

“Look at what's happening in Saudi Arabia, the place is booming with ideas. Some of that is politically driven in the sense that you have strong leadership, but you also have the opening of the country generally, tourism, young people with a voice, a growing civil society, nonprofit sector, and academic institutions.

“I feel like I'm here at the right moment, where the changes are becoming very tangible, and I’m happy to contribute. I can only do this and support the government if I have innovative ideas and creative opportunities.”

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Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant

LONDON: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it was temporarily suspending flights to and from seven African countries due to the outbreak of the newly discovered coronavirus strain, Omicron. 

The countries are Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros, an official source from the Ministry of Interior told Saudi state news agency SPA.

Expats will be denied entry if they have been in any of the countries listed within the last 14 days before arrival in the Kingdom. 

Nationals and expats who are allowed entry will be required to quarantine for five days, including those who have been vaccinated. 

The Ministry of Interior called on those who entered Saudi Arabia after traveling to the list of banned countries after Nov. 1, to take a PCR test.


What do parents in Saudi Arabia really think about distance learning?

Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2021

What do parents in Saudi Arabia really think about distance learning?

Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
  • After education minister said 83% of parents believe online education has been good for kids’ mental health, we talk those on both sides of the debate

JEDDAH: Distance learning was a necessity imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the past 18 months there has been a great deal of debate, globally, about the merits or otherwise of remote education and how well its extended use has served students during these difficult times.

In Saudi Arabia, however, parents appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of distance learning, according to figures quoted by Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. Speaking last month at the Saudi Family Forum, organized by the Family Affairs Council, he said 83 percent of parents believe that remote education has positively affected their children’s mental and psychological health. He added that it is here to stay, in some form, even after the pandemic ends because it has become a pillar of the education system.
Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or “My School,” platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides. In the first week after its launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.
Redha Omda, a father of three in Jeddah, told Arab News that teachers are using new techniques to enhance the online learning environment, and applauded the increased use of technology.
“I like how technology is playing a big part in the educational sector,” he said. “Teachers are contacting me through WhatsApp and they are more accessible than before.

BACKGROUND

Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or ‘My School,’ platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides.

“The Madrasati platform is linked to the parent’s Tawakkalna app, which is amazing, and it lets me know everything about my kids. I am also impressed by how my kids are using technology in a way that I did not imagine.”
Bara’a Alfergani, a mother of two living in Jeddah, said that distance learning saves students a lot of time.
“Study at home is better than attending eight hours of classes every day and then coming home with homework to do,” she said. “It is much easier to attend online and do homework at the same place.”

In the first week after Madrasati launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.

Alfergani added that it also makes it easier for her to keep an eye on her children and be more involved in their education.
The Ministry of Education has indicated that the future of learning in Saudi Arabia will involve some form of hybrid learning, as the concept of distance education has evolved as a result of the global health crisis.
Joud Al-Harbi, a 23-year-old college student from Jeddah, said that online education is a much better option than attending classes.
“It allows me to do many things at the same time,” she said. “I interact with my instructors, and most of my collegemates understand the subjects easily.”
One of her friends has a sick child, she added, and prefers to take classes online because it gives her more time to care for the youngster.
Schools and other educational institutions in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children.
Not all parents agree that distance learning has been a good thing, however. Stay-at-home mom Mashael Al-Sahli said it has had an adverse psychological effect on her two children because it has deprived them of a social life.
“Building social skills starts at school and it is an important factor of the growing process,” she said. “It was something we didn’t feel until schools were closed.”
Not only were her children deprived of the school environment, activities and their friends, she said, even though the online learning system that has been developed is good she nevertheless has found the learning process to be difficult.
“The kids can’t even see the teachers’ gestures or body language,” she added.
Nahedh Almwalad, an elementary school teacher in Jeddah, said that children have a lot of energy and their attention span is limited, which can be a challenge with online education, but added that it can help to teach them patience.


15,000 residency, labor, border violators arrested across Saudi Arabia

15,000 residency, labor, border violators arrested across Saudi Arabia
Updated 28 November 2021

15,000 residency, labor, border violators arrested across Saudi Arabia

15,000 residency, labor, border violators arrested across Saudi Arabia
  • The authorities transferred 75,649 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 15,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work, and border security regulations, an official report has revealed.

During the period Nov. 18 to 24, a total of 7,552 arrests were made for violations of residency rules, while 5,699 people were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 1,529 on labor-related issues.

The report’s findings showed that among 429 arrested while trying to cross the border into the Kingdom, 70 percent were Yemeni citizens, 28 percent Ethiopians, and 2 percent other nationalities.

A further 36 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 14 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The authorities transferred 75,649 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 2,048 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 9,586 were deported.

The Ministry of Interior pointed out that anyone found to be helping people gain illegal entry to the Kingdom, and transporting, or providing shelter for them could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), or confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia’s Space101 training program launched for undergraduates

Space101 training program launched for undergraduates. (Shutterstock)
Space101 training program launched for undergraduates. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Space101 training program launched for undergraduates

Space101 training program launched for undergraduates. (Shutterstock)
  • The commission explained that the training focuses on the basics of space science and technology by implementing professional programs under expert supervision

RIYADH: The Saudi Space Commission recently launched its first specialized training program in the field of space and space technology in cooperation with Airbus Defense and Space.
The program aims to raise the level of education and practical know-how in the space sector for undergraduates and those interested in learning space science.
The commission explained that the training focuses on the basics of space science and technology by implementing professional programs under expert supervision.
The training program is the result of a partnership agreement concluded on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress 2022 in October between the Saudi commission and Airbus to train national cadres in the space sector and provide job opportunities for trainees in the field.
It also contributes to achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by developing national human capabilities and qualifying them for the labor market.
Those wishing to register for the Space101 training program can do so via the following link: https://initiativesportal.saudispace.gov.sa/ar/user/login?destination=/ar/space101

 


Saudi initiative to develop digital capabilities of young people

Women attend a hackathon in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
Women attend a hackathon in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi initiative to develop digital capabilities of young people

Women attend a hackathon in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
  • The initiative focuses on analyzing eight basic digital skills, including managing cybersecurity by protecting personal data and addressing cyber-attacks, managing cyber-bullying by promoting awareness of how to combat it

JEDDAH: The governorate of Makkah region, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, is implementing the Future Champions initiative to develop digital capabilities for young people.

Under the slogan “How to be a role model in the digital world,” and through the sixth session of the Makkah Cultural Forum, the initiative aims to enhance digital citizenship, raise awareness and teach the optimal use of IT and communication.

It also aims to study the awareness of community members in the use of digital world applications and their enjoyment of skills and sound ethics through the use of the Internet and technology by analyzing a set of digital patterns and studying the behavior of individuals in the digital space.

The initiative focuses on analyzing eight basic digital skills, including managing cybersecurity by protecting personal data and addressing cyber-attacks, managing cyber-bullying by promoting awareness of how to combat it, and managing privacy by safely handling personal data when requested on the Internet.

Other skills include sound thinking and owning tools to distinguish between correct and incorrect information, managing digital footprint by understanding its nature and the real consequences, digital empathy with people in the virtual world and knowing their needs and feelings, managing screen time through self-control and time management, and digital national identity and showing it healthily and fairly.

This is achieved through an initial questionnaire to measure basic digital skills among individuals. More than 50,000 participants take part in the questionnaire.

Through its active partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the governorate of Makkah contributes to promoting the concept of digital citizenship and providing digital role models within the forum’s programs by presenting a diverse initiative that takes place in the cities and towns of the region.

It targets all segments of society to develop the region and its digital space in line with national efforts to create a new stage in communications and IT by employing smart systems, digital algorithms, analyzing big data and using the techniques of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in its cities and the work of its sectors to make the Kingdom a leading digital model.