Ancient and modern: The Arabic language gets a boost from AI

Ancient and modern: The Arabic language gets a boost from AI
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Updated 06 January 2022

Ancient and modern: The Arabic language gets a boost from AI

Ancient and modern: The Arabic language gets a boost from AI
  • Head of the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language tells how the latest technology is helping to improve knowledge and teaching methods

MAKKAH: Artificial intelligence is an increasingly important part of modern life and the technologies we rely on, but it is also being used to enhance awareness and understanding of more traditional and long-established aspects of our lives and cultures.

For example, AI is serving the Arabic language through its use in applications that support teaching and learning and assist in the development of dictionaries and programs to help millions of people worldwide to learn and use the language.

Abdullah Al-Washmi, the secretary-general of the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language, told Arab News that the academy aims to become a global reference resource for the language by providing the tools required to promote, teach, learn and encourage the use of Arabic, in accordance with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its Human Capability Development Program.

Part of the academy’s strategy involves a focus on accelerating the pace of technical research in various fields relating to the Arabic language, using AI tools to aid understanding, he added.

AI has become a major enabler of the teaching and learning of languages, Al-Washmi said, by helping to provide multiple learning patterns that allow students to learn Arabic in ways tailored to their needs. He added that they can choose the form and level of teaching that best suits them, along with the specific field in which they intend to use the language, and the AI will adapt each student’s learning experience to their particular needs by helping to identify and address any weaknesses and build on strengths.

“When it comes to Arabic speakers, AI helps them develop their skills by providing tools for learning Arabic grammar in a way that differs from the one taught in traditional books,” Al-Washmi said.

“In addition to teaching young people the language using techniques and educational methods that fit their needs, AI also enables students to choose the method through which they want to learn, such as simulation, dialogue or other methods they might prefer.”

AI provides amazing solutions thanks to the high-performance devices it runs on and the amount of data it can process, he added. For example, it can help people learn Arabic and develop reading skills by automatically identifying and correcting pronunciation, evaluating the current reading level, and helping to control the speed of reading, speaking and listening. It can also help to develop writing skills by correcting spelling, grammar, semantics and generating complete sentences.

AI can help to enhance the level of speaking and listening skills through smart dialogue systems, Al-Washmi said. It also allows users to explore other linguistic fields such as summarizing, translating, improving searches, detecting fraud, plagiarism and rumors, identifying hate speech and answering questions. All of these contributions are grouped into a science called natural language processing, or computational linguistics, which brings together specialists in AI and linguistics.

Speaking about modern ideas for teaching Arabic through AI, he said that the use of robots has received widespread acclaim in educational circles in many parts of the world. These robots offer near-limitless opportunities for students to think, design, implement their ideas, employ scientific principles and complete research.

AI is helping to make robots more intelligent and effective in communicating, following instructions, answering questions, providing lessons, and performing some Arab customs that Arabic-language students sometimes needs to know to help them learn, Al-Washmi said.

He added that the virtual world offers opportunities to facilitate the teaching and learning of Arabic and make the educational experience more exciting and enjoyable. It also allows students to become totally immersed in virtual Arabic-speaking environments.

The academy recently concluded a deal with THIQAH Business Services to develop applications for the Arabic language by building linguistic data sources and tools for archiving and analysis and making them available to academics, experts, and students. This project aims to raise knowledge and awareness of the Arabic language and improve the quality of published Arabic content.

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
Updated 17 sec ago

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
  • Kingdom’s media regulator says new law to take effect from October, with all social media influencers affected

LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.

From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.

The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”

Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.

Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.

“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”

Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”

Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.

In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.

GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”

“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.

Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.

Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.

However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.

There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.

With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.

Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.

However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.

Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.

In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.

The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.

The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.

With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”


4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   
Updated 11 August 2022

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

RIYADH: A fourth group of health security trainees graduated from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday. 

A total of 4,291 male and female graduates will join the job market. 

Dr. Aws Al-Shamsan, secretary-general of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said that health security plays an important role in improving healthcare services.

The program includes practical and theoretical training for three months, in addition to two weeks of field training in one of the health sectors, allowing trainees to benefit from hands-on experience.

Health security graduates receive a diploma allowing them to work in the Kingdom’s health sector.

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits
Updated 11 August 2022

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

JEDDAH: Pilgrims sheltering from heavy rain in Makkah on Tuesday received a helping hand when the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques handed out umbrellas to visitors at the Grand Mosque.

Khaled bin Fahd Al-Shalwi, assistant for the general president for social, voluntary and humanitarian services agency, said that the “Umbrella of Mu’tamer” initiative is part of a range of services designed to help visitors perform their rituals. 

Programs and services come under the direction of the President for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, who strives to provide a safe environment to allow visitors to the Grand Mosque to complete their rituals with ease, he added. 

According to the presidency’s website, the presidency has also employed more than 200 supervisors, 4,000 female and male workers, and utilized more than 500 items of equipment to deal with the rain at the Grand Mosque through its environmental protection agency. 

Ahmed bin Omar Bilaamash, assistant to the general president for services and achievement of the environmental protection agency, said that prayer areas, entrances and exits, and the mataf — the circumambulation space around the Kaaba — are equipped to handle the rainfall. 

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
Updated 10 August 2022

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
  • Event will be attended by experts in maritime security from around the world
  • The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security

RIYADH: The 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum will be held in Jeddah from November 15-17.
Organized by the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the event aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on how best to ensure maritime safety in a rapidly changing global environment.
Titled “Protecting Marine Units and Vital Coastal Sites Against the Threat of Unmanned Systems,” the forum will highlight the threat of such systems and present ways in which they can be dealt with.
Thanking the crown prince for his sponsorship of the event, RSNF Commander Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghufaili said it would also discuss the role individual nations and international organizations have to play in maintaining maritime security.
The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security, he added.
“It also aims to enhance the role of the RSNF in cooperation with marine environment authorities at the national level, and what naval forces of brotherly and friendly countries are doing to support regional and international efforts, ensure the safety of maritime traffic and contribute to sustaining the global economy,” Al-Ghufaili said.
Military specialists and experts from the fields of technology, industry and academia will take part in a series of workshops during the forum, which will also be attended by representatives from government ministries and organizations and international corporations.
The event will also provide a platform for companies from around the world to display their latest equipment, technologies and systems related to maritime security.

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital
Updated 11 August 2022

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital

Hassan Al-Jeshi was appointed CEO of Malaz Capital in July this year.

Malaz Capital is an asset management firm operating under the regulations of the Capital Market Authority of Saudi Arabia.

The company obtained its CMA license in 2010, and is authorized to carry out asset management, dealing as principal and custody services in the Kingdom.

Prior to joining Malaz Capital, Al-Jeshi held several leadership positions in leading investment institutions and a group of national and international banks, including head of equity capital markets at Saudi National Bank Capital in 2021, the investment arm of SNB.

He worked at Samba Financial Group, holding two different positions including assistant general manager from 2017, and head of investment banking from 2020 at Samba Capital, the group’s investment arm.

From 2013-17, Al-Jeshi worked as group head of corporate finance at Alistithmar Capital, the investment arm of The Saudi Investment Bank.

In 2012, he worked in energy and infrastructure investment banking at Taylor-DeJongh, Washington, DC.

Al-Jeshi has extensive professional experience in the field of investment and capital markets locally, regionally, and internationally, where he has led through his positions multiple landmark and significant investment transactions.

At Samba he managed and oversaw the full cycle of investment banking deal-related activities, including deal origination, client management, building financial models, performing valuation, transaction structuring, and preparing to offer documents, reviewing transaction agreements and more.

During his early career, Al-Jeshi also worked as a business consultant to a number of small and medium enterprises at start-up and growth stages in areas related to preliminary feasibility study assessment, capital budgeting, valuation, and fundraising.

Al-Jeshi holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals which he received in 2005, and in 2013 he earned a master’s degree in finance from George Washington University in the US.