Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future

Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future
The forum presented three panel discussions and several presentationsfeaturing 12 renowned national and international speakers. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 10 February 2022

Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future

Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future
  • First Smart Madinah Forum considered how the Saudi city might become one of the most tranquil yet dynamic cities in the world through the use of technology and innovation

MADINAH: Local and international technology leaders, experts and businesses gathered this week for the first Smart Madinah Forum, during which they discussed, shared and exchanged knowledge and experience of smart cities.

The aim of the two-day event, held on Feb. 6 and 7 and organized by Al-Madinah Region Development Authority under the patronage of Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, was to explore ways to ensure Madinah is one of the top three most livable cities in Saudi Arabia.

Specific goals that were discussed included increasing its annual economic growth by 3 percent and reducing unemployment by 5 percent by 2030 as part of the efforts to transform it into one of the most tranquil yet dynamic cities in the world through the use of technology and innovation.

The forum considered a number of improvements that might help to achieve these goals, including the development of 5G and fiber optic networks, enhanced communication and information technology infrastructure, and smart technology solutions.

In considering what we actually mean by the term “smart city,” Jonathan Reichental, the founder of Human Future, a global business and technology advisory, investment and education business, said: “I often have the privilege to travel to many cities of the world to talk to their smart city leaders, mayors and managers — and I hear lots of different answers to that question.

“One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that the definition isn’t as important as the outcomes. The definition isn’t as important as what we’re trying to achieve. And every community, every city has a different goal. This is another insight.

“There is no recipe that every city can follow and get the same results because every city has different demographics, different geography, different resources, different capabilities — significant differences. But I do know one thing, which is clear: This is a topic about people.”

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The aim of the two-day event, held on Feb. 6 and 7 and organized by Al-Madinah Region Development Authority under the patronage of Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, was to explore ways to ensure Madinah is one of the top three most livable cities in Saudi Arabia.
  • The forum considered a number of improvements that might help to achieve these goals, including the development of 5G and fiber optic networks, enhanced communication and information technology infrastructure, and smart technology solutions.

Under the heading “Where technology meets tranquility,” the forum presented three panel discussions and several presentations featuring 12 renowned national and international speakers who explored Madinah’s strategy for becoming a smart city and identified six sectors for development: tourism, environment, business, old neighborhoods, well-being and mobility. About 148 attendees took part in six workshops that generated about 500 ideas, based on which they prepared case studies for developing each sector.

“We conducted several workshops and involved the key stakeholders, including the residents themselves, and we identified the challenges that the city is facing; we categorized them under six priority sectors,” Abdulrahman Ibrahim, chief data analytics and innovation officer at Al-Madinah Region Development Authority, told Arab News.

“The strategy and goals of the smart Madinah program are highly human-centric and residents need to help highlight the challenges and find the right technological solutions.”

Transportation is one of the key challenges that the city is facing. Consequently, one of the key priority sectors in Madinah’s smart city strategy is mobility.

Abdulrahman Ibrahim, Chief data analytics and innovation officer at Al-Madinah Region Development Authority

Madinah is a popular destination for Muslims from around the world and the heavy traffic in the city is a major issue for commuters and civic bodies.

“Transportation is one of the key challenges that the city is facing,” said Ibrahim. “Consequently, one of the key priority sectors in Madinah’s smart city strategy is mobility. This challenge will be addressed in that strategic priority and we have a group of case studies that we want to implement using technology as a means to solve this challenge.”

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority is exploring ways to create a smart country and has established two innovation labs its says are vital to the development of artificial intelligence solutions.

“SDAIA is focusing on smart cities, heavily based on the directions from the chairman of the board, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Nasser Al-Rayes, the authority’s deputy CEO.

“We’ve been engaged with our colleagues from the Madinah authority since the beginning of developing this strategy, so this is not just a one-time meeting. Now, it’s multiple workshops and multiple engagements to ensure that whatever they aspire to have is definitely aligned with the national directions and, most importantly, it is aligned with the agenda of data and AI that SDAIA is leading.”

During the forum, the experts also discussed smart city issues under the heading “All for one and one for all.”

Lakshita Wijerathne, chief operating officer at technology company Eutech, said: “To help a smart city platform cater for your purpose, one key thing is when you have so many sensors … you have your visitors, your residents, your citizens … so the platform will be able to collect and analyze large volumes of data. So that will give you valuable information related to the understanding of your situational awareness.”

The second Smart Madinah Forum is expected to take place in February 2023.


Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables

Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables
Updated 05 February 2023

Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables

Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Oman on Saturday signed an executive program in the field of communications, information technology infrastructure and undersea cable investments.

The agreement was signed between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the sultanate’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Swaha, and Oman’s Saeed bin Hamoud Al-Ma’awali.

“The program aims to exploit the geographical location of the two countries and promote investment in the submarine and terrestrial cables that pass through them,” the Saudi press Agency reported.

It would create a common work environment to enhance cooperation in the field of infrastructure for communications and information technology services, and high-speed digital interconnection for data exchange.

The executive program also aims to develop options for implementing regional digital connectivity through investment entities and licensed companies, and to expand investment in global data centers and cloud services that target regional presence to maximize benefit for the region. 


Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
Updated 05 February 2023

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
  • Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region

RIYADH: At first thought the freezing Arctic and scorching Arabian desert would seem to have little in common, but according to British explorer Mark Evans, their similarities lie in the people who live there.

It has been only a few days since Evans completed the Heart of Arabia expedition across the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, a journey taken by the great explorer and writer Harry St. John Philby in 1917. Philby greatly contributed to the documentation of the region and felt so at home that he converted to Islam and named himself Abdullah.

The team of four, including Philby’s granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, and regional expert Alan Morrissey, was led by Evans from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.

Mark Evans and Saudi explorer Reem Philby on the second leg of the Heart of Arabia expedition following in Abdullah Philby's footsteps from 1917. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

Every day, Evans and Reem would set off at sunrise, walking or sometimes mounted on camels, leaving the vehicles to catch up later in the day as they followed Philby’s route. Through Philby’s photographic documentation and detailed journals in the early 1900s, the group was able to pinpoint the exact locations almost 105 years later.

Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region.

Before traveling around the Middle East, he lived a neo-nomadic lifestyle, honoring the beauty of uninhabited places through his travels, which included crossing Greenland’s ice sheet, and hunting for evidence of William Edward Parry’s 1820 Artic expedition on Melville Island.

A resting point for the Heart of Arabia expedition team between the Saudi desert sand dunes during the second leg of the journey, which kicked off from Diriyah in January. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

Most journeys are spent in isolation, far away from the chaos and daily demands of the world, giving explorers a great opportunity for reflection and a chance to focus on the research at hand. These meaningful expeditions have allowed Evans to reframe the notion of isolation.

“I really like the word serenity because I find great peace and contentment in the desert. One of the best parts of the day is the first half an hour when I get into my sleeping bag and I just put my head on my pillow and look at the stars above that are just unbelievable,” he said. He said that he prefers to sleep on the sand rather than in a tent.

Having spent a whole year in the Arctic, including four months of total darkness with temperatures as low as minus 37 C, two weeks in the Saudi desert are relatively straightforward for Evans.

Much of British explorer Mark Evans' expeditions are spent in isolation from the chaos and happenings of the world, which provide great opportunity for reflection and focus. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

Growing up in the British countryside, Evans’ exploring instincts were honed at an early age.

“I grew up in a time where you had to create your own entertainment. I was already very content in silent places and quiet places close to nature. That was my childhood. I was less comfortable going into noisy restaurants and discotheques,” he said.

I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.

Mark Evans, British explorer

Aged 17, he had the chance to join a six-week expedition to northern Norway through an educational charity in London. He shared a tent with two strangers in a place where the sun never set.

“I just fell in love with a life that was outside of my small rural life back in Britain,” Evans said.

That period set him off on a flurry of expeditions in the years to come. He spent 10 years in the Arctic, giving back to the youth and future generations in the same way the charity invested in him at an early age.

“It was a chance for me to step up and invest a bit of my time to support society,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Heart of Arabia expedition that follows in Abdullah Philby’s footsteps included his granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, regional expert Alan Morrissey, and seasoned explorer Mark Evans who led the group from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.

• Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, the expedition’s official podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.

But while his travels and philanthropic ventures were a great way to see the world, they paid far from a livable wage, which led him to become an educator.

Although Evans claims he went into teaching “for the wrong reasons,” it brought him to the Middle East, initially to Bahrain, then for four years at the British School in Riyadh, and later Oman.

Initially, he thought he would not particularly enjoy the region, but he quickly fell in love with the culture, heritage, and hospitality of the people.  

“There’s a real connection between those two places in my life. Arctic and Arabia both start with a letter ‘A,’ and the one thing they have in common is that people who live in the Arctic and who live in Arabia live on the extremes of human comfort.

“One lives in extreme cold, one lives in extreme heat. As (explorer and writer) Wilfred ‘Mubarak bin Landan’ Thesiger said: ‘The harder the life, the finer the person.’”

During winter nights, the Arctic sky would come alive with the electrifying energy of the aurora borealis. The sunlight, however, came in waves: From total darkness in early February to slivers of sunshine on the horizon, the season eventually turns to unbroken daylight.

“I hadn’t seen the sun for three months. I remember breaking down and crying because I knew that winter was coming to an end and summer was coming. And that was quite emotional,” Evans said.

Moments such as these are what keep the traveler curious for more. At the age of 61, he continues his quest to experience the glorious offerings of nature and serenity.

“​​Being here, I find total contentment. I wouldn’t find it working in a busy office in a noisy city,” he said.

As Evans grows older, his legacy is becoming a prime motivator. He continues to find ways to secure sustainable outcomes that influence the behavior and thinking of others, much like Abdullah Philby did.

Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, their podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.

The team has also launched the Philby Arabia Fund, which is dedicated to researchers looking to initiate projects in Saudi Arabia.

“Funding can be a real challenge,” Evans said. “You have an idea, but you just don’t know where to start. I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.”

 

The Kingdom vs Captagon
Inside Saudi Arabia's war against the drug destroying lives across the Arab world
Enter
keywords

 


Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
Updated 04 February 2023

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
  • Over 150 drawings, paintings produced by Sami Al-Marzoogi between 1986-2022

JEDDAH: A solo exhibition called “What lies beneath color” is the first large-scale retrospective of the work of Saudi artist Sami Al-Marzoogi.

The exhibition, which is being hosted at Hafez Gallery and runs until March 3, focuses on the artist’s intuitive exploration of color, realistic and abstract-looking landscape views, deconstructed human figures, intricate geometric patterns, organic motifs, and fluid explorations rendered in ink, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, and polychromes.

Al-Marzoogi's work highlights his keen sensibility, exceptional drawing skills, and ability to create abstractions of his environment.

The exhibition brings together more than 150 drawings and paintings of the self-taught artist produced between 1986 and 2022.

He said: “I have always been interested in capturing impressions of anything that’s around me and painting on concepts that come from many hours of contemplation.

“Specifically, it’s the contrast of shapes, colors and light that had me intrigued. While I’m painting or drawing, the harmonious unity of my moods and sensations reflects in it.”

This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.

Sami Al-Marzoogi, Saudi artist

Al-Marzoogi, who previously pursued a successful career in medicine, added: “In the past I have exhibited my work alongside other artists but never had a solo show.

“This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over the 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.”

He began to incorporate art into his daily routine in the 1980s, when he returned to the Kingdom after a decade-long stay in Germany. He dived deeper into his creative process each time, producing a cohesive body of paintings and drawings.

He started with watercolors mostly inspired by the sophisticated geometric arrangements present in Islamic decorative objects, such as rugs or mosaics.

He then shifted to polychromes, taking a more experimental road into sinuous shapes often constructed with creative adaptations of Arabic letters, which constitute the tradition of calligraphy.

Al-Marzoogi said that he always carries his ball pens or pencils, drawing more than one abstract each day. This refreshes his train of thought from a busy life routine and connects his artistic instincts to guide him to be more creative in his work.

He added: “I always follow and allow intuition and my perception to guide art making. Art needs a technique and a process, but I believe my instincts or emotions guide me in the way I approach things and what I am going to make next.

“When it comes to my work, I don’t like to think in terms of categories or definitions: My work stems from emotions.

“At the end of the day, you could argue that it has a deeper meaning or does not. That is up to the viewer.”

Commenting on the art scene in Saudi Arabia, Al-Marzoogi added: “The tradition of producing and understanding the different kinds of art has always been there in the Kingdom.

“The only difference now is that there are many platforms, cultural organizations, galleries, and events allowing the artists an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their artworks and get inspired by more established artists.”


Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
Updated 04 February 2023

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
  • Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has started a project to provide shelter materials in winter aid bags for the most vulnerable families affected by the floods in Pakistan.

The launch of the initiative was attended by Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Pakistan; Lt. Gen. Inam Haider Malik, the head of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority; and other officials, at Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Islamabad.

The project will supply 15,000 bags, weighing 190 tons. These will contain basic shelter materials to be distributed in eight affected areas. Some 175,000 people, or 15,000 families, will benefit from the aid.

Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year.

He added that the aid showed the keenness of the Saudi leadership to stand with the Pakistani people in times of crisis.

Malik thanked the Kingdom’s leadership and government for the humanitarian support, indicating that the aid was timely as authorities continue the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.

 

 


Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit
Updated 8 min 51 sec ago

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Kuwait on an official visit, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry announced on Saturday.

Prince Faisal was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, upon his arrival at Kuwait International Airport,.

The Saudi minister was also greeted by Saudi Ambassador to Kuwait Prince Sultan bin Saad bin Khalid.