Saudi Arabia, UAE better placed than UK, Germany for AI innovation: Report findings

Saudi Arabia, UAE better placed than UK, Germany for AI innovation: Report findings
With rapid growth in technology in the Kingdom, awareness about cybersecurity must also increase, say experts. (File Photo)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Saudi Arabia, UAE better placed than UK, Germany for AI innovation: Report findings

Saudi Arabia, UAE better placed than UK, Germany for AI innovation: Report findings
  • Survey shows 50 percent of Saudi/UAE employees able to automate day-to-day tasks
  • Only 16 percent of workers in the UK, and 24 percent in Germany, can automate similar tasks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are uniquely placed to drive artificial intelligence innovation post-coronavirus pandemic, a new report has revealed.

The findings of a YouGov survey commissioned by American analytics automation company Alteryx showed that 50 percent of the employees quizzed in the two countries were now able to automate their day-to-day tasks.

And 58 percent of staff questioned said they were able to produce faster results through the use of analytics technology compared to five years ago.

In comparison, only 16 percent of workers in the UK, and 24 percent in Germany, said they could automate similar tasks, the report found.

YouGov surveyed more than 300 employees in Saudi Arabia and the UAE who worked with data in large companies.

However, the research discovered that inconsistently applied training programs still hindered the region with only existing experts — such as qualified data scientists — receiving vital upskilling. Highlighting the scope of this need, 97 percent of Gulf workers agreed that training was necessary for all staff that handled data.

Muhammad Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University in Riyadh, told Arab News: “The advancement of AI and automation has enabled machines to outperform human workers in more aspects, resulting in enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, and reduced labor costs.”

He said the Alteryx findings showed how Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had become tech-savvy and willing to adopt digital transformation.

“Saudi Arabia, as an early adopter of technologies, is harnessing the potential of AI with a plan to inject $135.2 billion into its economy by 2030, equivalent to 12.4 percent of the national gross domestic product.

“This will not only make the Kingdom one of the global leaders in AI but will also transform it into a knowledge-based and data-driven economy.

“Data and AI are at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030, which has been manifested by the recently launched initiatives and strategies spearheaded by the Saudi Data and AI Authority. This will not only develop Saudi Arabia as a data and AI powerhouse but will also make it a global hub in research, development, business, and innovation,” he added.

Khan pointed out that one of the stumbling blocks that may hinder AI-driven innovations was the upskilling and reskilling of experts and professionals with state-of-the-art tools, techniques, and knowledge in data science and analytics.

He said: “Therefore, it is imperative to launch modern educational and training programs to keep the workforce prepared for new challenges in this field.”

Tauseef Ahmad, a health informatics analyst at King Saud University, told Arab News: “It is inspiring to see the new findings with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region adopting technology to update day-to-day operations. Recent years have seen rapid adoption of updated technology.

“The report showed that employees’ productivity increased 58 percent faster as compared to five years ago, which shows that these significant successes could never have been achieved without the help of data scientists. However, proper training and workshops would help cover the remaining 42 percent of employees.

“By delivering a foundation of data skills to all employees and removing the pressure from data and technology teams, business leaders can minimize the challenges they face,” he said.

As the advancement of AI and automation has enabled machines to outperform human workers, Saudi smart apps such as Absher, Tawakkalna, and Sehhaty have made things easier during the pandemic by offering innovative and smart interactive services to cater for public needs.

The number of registered Absher users exceeded 23 million last year, with the platform providing more than 300 individual, business, job seeker, and government e-services while also allowing online transactions.

The Tawakkalna app, launched last year by Saudi authorities to help track COVID-19 infections, is available in 75 countries worldwide. It has been designed around the prevention and management of COVID-19 and has a section to help people avoid entering areas with a high incidence of cases. The app has been updated to show the COVID-19 health status of an individual.

The Saudi Ministry of Health’s Sehhaty app enables users to access health information and medical e-services provided by health organizations throughout the Kingdom. These include booking appointments for COVID-19 tests and vaccine jabs, self-assessment checking, vital signs updates, tracking prescribed medicine, and retrieving and sharing sick leaves.


Prince Khalid, top US defense officials review Saudi-US defense ties

Prince Khalid, top US defense officials review Saudi-US defense ties
Updated 14 sec ago

Prince Khalid, top US defense officials review Saudi-US defense ties

Prince Khalid, top US defense officials review Saudi-US defense ties

RIYADH: Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of defense, on Wednesday met the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The pair reviewed the Saudi-US partnership, and ongoing and future strategic military and defense cooperation between the Kingdom and US.

Prince Khalid expressed Saudi Arabia’s appreciation for the close cooperation between the two countries' defense bodies to achieve the two sides’ common interests and enhance security and peace regionally and internationally.

He also said in a tweet that the meeting was organized based on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s directives.

Prince Khalid and US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, then, co-headed the Saudi-US joint strategic planning committee meeting.

The meeting discussed regional and international developments, and a number of issues on defending common interests and global security and stability.

The meeting was attended by Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili, Saudi Chief of General Staff, and other Saudi and US senior officials.


Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia

Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 May 2022

Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia

Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia
  • The event will highlight the significance of the ancient sport and the Kingdom’s efforts to advance it through local and international forums

RIYADH: An international event to celebrate the history of purebred Arabian horses is set to get underway in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Equestrian Authority and the Horse Racing Club, will on May 25 patronize the launch of the second edition of the five day Kahila championship meeting.

Organized by the King Abdulaziz center for purebred Arabian horses, the event will be staged at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Convention Center and will highlight the significance of the ancient sport and the Kingdom’s efforts to advance it through local and international forums.


73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls

73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls
Updated 18 May 2022

73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls

73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls
  • The authorities thwarted attempts to smuggle 682 kilograms of hashish, 62.3 tons of khat and 194,300 amphetamine tablets

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 73 people after border patrols foiled massive drug smuggling attempts in several regions of the Kingdom.

Col. Misfir Al-Qarini, spokesman for the General Directorate of Border Guard, said that land patrols in the Jazan, Najran, Asir and Tabuk regions thwarted attempts to smuggle 682 kilograms of hashish, 62.3 tons of khat and 194,300 amphetamine tablets.

The seized drugs were handed over to authorities and legal steps taken against those detained, he added.

Among the alleged violators were 20 Saudi citizens, 26 Ethiopians, 23 Yemenis, two Pakistanis, one Sudanese and one Eritrean. 


Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight

Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight
Updated 18 May 2022

Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight

Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight
  • The festival has 13 sections featuring 50 live performances and folkloric dances from across the Kingdom

 

JEDDAH: At this time every year the mountainous city of Taif is adorned with the hues of bright pink roses that produce some of the world’s most alluring perfumes and oils.

The Taif Rose Festival is the modern iteration of a tradition of cultivation and harvesting that has taken place in this region over the past nine centuries.

It was launched on May 6 at Al-Rudaf Park in the southern part of the city, and is open from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight.

The Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with Taif Municipality and under the patronage of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, have organized the festival for two years in a row.

However, it has been running for the past 17 years, Arab News was told by Ahmad Al-Joaid, a tour guide from Taif who has been operating for 15 years in the field.

Al-Joaid said: “A number of new activities are added to the festival every year. Al-Rudaf Park is an area of over half-a-million square meters … a theater has also been created for the festival … Concerts (are) also a new addition.”

The ministry tweeted on its account @MoC_Engage: “Between the beauty of roses and the creativity of art, we welcome you to Taif roses festival.”

The festival has 13 sections featuring 50 live performances and folkloric dances from across the Kingdom in the park, and music shows by male and female artists.

The organizers have set up a workshop aimed at young people that provides information on how to become involved in the perfume-making industry.

There is also an exhibition titled “Claude Monet,” named after the French painter and founder of impressionism, who portrayed nature with such startling creativity. Several of Monet’s renditions are on display.

The festival also provides an opportunity for aspiring Saudi artists to display their paintings at “Cultural Street,” and drawings and other artwork at “Drawing Exhibit.” 

Many families have set up booths to sell byproducts of Taif’s produce such as rose water, perfumes, deodorants, soaps, body and skincare products, food and sweets.

The festival is also a great place for social media enthusiasts because it has several picturesque backdrops for photographs such as the Rose Dome, which contains a giant painting made of natural roses, the largest basket of the flowers in the city, and models and gates decorated with the produce.

Visitors can also view and listen to various rare birds.

Taif roses have historic, economic and religious importance. The oil is used to perfume the walls of the Kaaba, which is also washed twice annually with its scented water.

The region has more than 2,000 flower farms producing over 200 million roses every season.

Residents of Makkah and Jeddah visit Taif regularly in summer. “People can do plenty of things in Taif in addition to visiting the festival during their one-day visit …  (including) museums, local markets, rose factories in Al-Shafa and Al-Hada, the cable car, strawberry farm, zoo, and historical castles,” the tour guide said.


Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva
Updated 19 May 2022

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Majed Al-Sulami is a diplomat at the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, where he is head of the humanitarian and development affairs department in Geneva.

His responsibilities are in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, International Committee of the Red Cross, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and humanitarian assistance in areas affected by conflicts, armed disputes and natural disasters.

Al-Sulami attained his bachelor’s degree in English literature from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. He also received a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy affairs from the University of Ghana, and another master’s degree in business administration for executives from Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK.

Al-Sulami also served as the chargé d’affaires at the Saudi Embassy in Ghana, and the deputy head and head of the consular section between September 2011 and 2013.

He was also the deputy head of the media section at the Saudi Embassy in London between September 2013 and 2017.

Al-Sulami also served as director of the specialized meetings at the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation between September 2017 and 2020.

His participation included the 47th and 48th sessions of the OIC’s permanent finance committee, the 13th and 14th sessions of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission and the workshop held by the OIC’s commission with the UN.

Al-Sulami was a political committee member for preparatory meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings and the OIC conference held in Makkah in 2019.