NEOM’s media hub on a mission to nurture Saudi talent

The $153 million movie ‘Desert Warrior’ is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM. (Photo by Neom)
The $153 million movie ‘Desert Warrior’ is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM. (Photo by Neom)
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Updated 19 September 2022

NEOM’s media hub on a mission to nurture Saudi talent

The $153 million movie ‘Desert Warrior’ is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM. (Photo by Neom)
  • Executive Wayne Borg says facility will compete with world’s best creative centers
  • Hub will ‘provide every opportunity for young Saudis,’ he says

CANNES: The NEOM media hub is set to become a hotbed for the Kingdom’s creative talent as well as a major contributor to the nation’s economy, according to one its senior executives.

“For all of the great infrastructure we will have and for all of the great companies we will attract, fundamentally the success of this proposition will rest on our ability to develop that talent pool,” Wayne Borg, managing director for media and entertainment at NEOM, told Arab News.

Although still in its early days, the media hub is a key element of the NEOM smart city, and one of its missions is to compete with the world’s elite creative centers by driving local workforce development.




Twelve young Saudi trainees contributed to the ‘Desert Warrior’ film production in different departments. (Photo by Neom)

“Initially we will bring talent in, we want knowledge transfer, we want the young people to learn from the best at a global standard. We need to develop that talent pool here,” Borg said.

The hub aims to educate and empower young people across the Kingdom by giving them hands-on experience with world-renowned filmmakers and producers.

FASTFACTS

• Although still in its early days, the media hub is a key element of the NEOM smart city, and one of its missions is to compete with the world’s elite creative centers by driving local workforce development.

• The hub aims to educate and empower young people across the Kingdom by giving them hands-on experience with world-renowned filmmakers and producers.

“We should be there to provide every opportunity for young Saudis who want to pursue their careers who may not have had the opportunity in the past or would have had to go overseas. Now they can stay here and do it in the Kingdom and work with the world’s best,” Borg said.

“For a long time young people were nervous to pursue their passion in the industry here because there wasn’t an industry here so they couldn’t see career pathways and secure employment.

“We are changing that and we are showing that through this pipeline of productions you can develop your career, you can work in a global industry, you can work with the best people and learn and pursue your passion and have a successful career.”

In accordance with Saudi Vision 2030, the media hub will serve as a focal point for the film production, gaming and digital publishing sectors.

Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the plans for The Line development in NEOM there has been a lot of buzz around the smart city.

The media hub aims to contribute to the Saudi film industry through international collaborations and the promotion of local productions. It also seeks to create initiatives in industry learning and opportunities for Saudis through various partnerships.

One of those is with the National Film and Television school in the UK. NEOM also offers entry-level certificate courses in multiple disciplines for those who want to try their hand at different formats.

“Once they have received the certificates we are attaching those students to the productions so that they start to gain credible experience with world-renowned production crews and hopefully they can start to build up their portfolio and their CV,” Borg said.

He said the hub also offered a two-year master’s program for those who wanted to pursue specialist areas in film.

It has also established the NEOM Digital Academy which supports students who are interested in content creation using smartphones and other small devices. It has already made programs with the Saudi Broadcast Authority and Rotana.

“This stuff is priceless in terms of its value to young people,” Borg said. “We are currently working to develop programs in secured areas of on-screen production and gaming.”

One of the highlights of the media hub is its work in nurturing talent in the gaming industry.

“Gaming is obviously a huge focus right now in the Kingdom … (and) a huge focus for us,” Borg said.

“We have to be driven by what the industry needs first and foremost. There is no point in us driving it. We will facilitate it, we will develop the programs and we want to work across the Kingdom with all of the stakeholders to help develop that talent pool because that’s important for us.”

As a result of its investment in new talent, the media hub is contributing to job creation and the Kingdom’s economic growth.

“The media industry all around the world now is a real driver for economic growth and has an incredible impact not just from an entertainment perspective or from an information perspective. It’s about that direct impact,” Borg said.

He added that in some countries the media sector accounted for as much as 4 percent of GDP.

“It’s a priority sector now and it’s a sector that progressive economies pursue,” he said.

The $153 million movie “Desert Warrior” is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM.

“In practical terms ‘Desert Warrior’ generated over 80,000 hotel nights,” Borg told Arab News.

“When you think about a $150 million production, if you strip out the post piece you will come to $100 million being injected in six months into the local economy.

“From caterers, drivers, electricians, carpenters, hotel rooms, cleaners, how it radiates out and amplifies. We have horse trainers, people looking out for animals. It has such a direct impact on the economy,” he said.

The film had four months of pre-production and a five-month shoot with over 450 people on set daily.

“We were able to bring a lot of young Saudis on to the project as extras … which was fantastic,” Borg said.

Through the media hub, the film also enlisted 12 Saudi trainees, who worked in different jobs such as camera assistants and in general production.

“For a lot of them this was their first time on a feature film set anywhere in the world,” Borg said. “And to be able to do that in their home country in NEOM is a fantastic achievement and the start of an emerging development program.”

 

 


LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool

LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool
Updated 06 February 2023

LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool

LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool
  • Cash prizes are on offer in the Rocket Fuel competition and Alibaba Cloud Hackathon
  • Both events aim to support startups and projects in addressing technical challenges 

RIYADH: The LEAP23 conference in Riyadh launched the Rocket Fuel competition and Alibaba Cloud hackathon, with more than SR6 million ($1.6 million) in cash prizes on offer.

Being held at the Front Expo Center until Thursday, both events aim to support startups and projects in addressing technical challenges through innovative solutions.

Supported by the National Technology Development Program and the Misk Foundation, the Rocket Fuel competition will see 90 global startups competing for a chance to be among 15 presented to a jury.

Divided into six categories, the competition offers cash prizes amounting to SR4 million, including the LEAP Award, which offers $250,000 to the strongest and most prominent company.

The Rising Star Award, worth $150,000, will go to the startup with the strongest start.

The Aviatrix Award and the Technology for Humanity Award — worth $150,000 each — will go to the best women-led creative startup company and the startup that best serves humanity, respectively.

Two “Towards new horizons and artificial intelligence” awards, with a value of $300,000, will also be given to winners of the best startup working in the field of metaverse and Web3, as well as the best emerging company that provides artificial intelligence solutions.

The Alibaba Cloud hackathon, sponsored by the Saudi Telecom Company, will enhance cloud technology in the Kingdom through several challenges and SR2 million in prize money.

The event targets amateurs as well as local and international professionals in sectors including education, health technology, government, logistics services, e-commerce and artificial intelligence.


Saudi crown prince offers condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (SPA/Reuters)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (SPA/Reuters)
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi crown prince offers condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (SPA/Reuters)
  • Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery
  • Major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people on Monday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered his condolences to Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and people after an earthquake rocked the country on Monday.

The major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people and flattening thousands of buildings as rescuers dug frantically for survivors.

Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

He added that the Kingdom stands with and supports Turkiye in the face of the natural disaster.

Erdogan thanked the crown prince and said he appreciates the Kingdom’s support in these difficult circumstances.

Multi-storey apartment buildings full of residents were among the 3,400 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.


Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman

Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman
Updated 59 min 15 sec ago

Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman

Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman
  • Leila Chapman, an expert in narrative experiences at the RCU, said that observing Hinat will provide visitors with an immersive historical experience through insights into the history of the Nabataeans and their civilization

JEDDAH: The facial structure of a 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman from the AlUla region has been reconstructed by experts from the Royal Commission for AlUla.

They used the skeleton of the woman, dubbed “Hinat,” who authorities believed died in the first century B.C. The reconstruction will be displayed for the public in the visitor’s center at the Hegra historical site in AlUla from Feb. 6.

The skeleton was discovered inside a tomb in the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

Human remains, skin and hair, along with textiles, leather and other substances were also discovered, as was an inscription that said that the tomb belonged to “Hinat, the daughter of Wahbu.”

Studies confirmed the importance of Hinat’s position in the Nabataean community, as she had possessed sufficient wealth to obtain her own tomb in Hegra.

A number of experts on Nabataean civilization issued a biography of Hinat, equipped with pictures of her clothes and jewelry as a background to her facial reconstruction.

They were joined by a production team with experience in anthropology, reconstruction and physical model-making.

The reconstruction aims to give visitors the opportunity to learn about the ancient history of the region.

Helen McGauran, an expert in organizing heritage exhibitions, said: “The process of restoring Hinat’s facial features combined both scientific accuracy and contemporary artistic development to expand our understanding about the Nabataean civilization, which still offers many secrets and stories, and sheds light on the history of AlUla.”

Leila Chapman, an expert in narrative experiences at the RCU, said that observing Hinat will provide visitors with an immersive historical experience through insights into the history of the Nabataeans and their civilization.

Laila Neamah, co-director of the Hegra project, oversaw the selection of appropriate models for the reconstruction.

The RCU seeks to preserve the heritage of the region, as well as attract visitors and residents.

The commission’s “Journey Through Time” plan involves the launch of the “Kingdom’s Institute” in the Dadan area.

The design of the structure will be inspired by the Dadan civilization.

 


Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts

Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts
Updated 06 February 2023

Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts

Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts
  • Collaboration with giga-projects in Saudi Arabia
  • GreenLight is firm’s decarbonization initiative

RIYADH: Deloitte is participating for the first time as a designated innovation and emerging technology partner at LEAP 2023, and has highlighted an initiative that is assisting the Kingdom’s firms and projects with their sustainability efforts.

The second edition of the event, being held from Feb. 6-9, hosts more than 700 leaders in technology and investment from 50 countries.

During the event, Deloitte’s CEO Mutasem Dajani, told Arab News that one of the tools on display at their booth is “GreenLight, which enables organizations to figure out decarbonization, regardless of where they are on the sustainability spectrum.”

“We are working with the leading project owners and developers in terms of the transformation that’s going on across the giga-projects in the Kingdom. And we’re really proud of that work that we’re doing,” he added.

“We feel it’s not only transforming the society and the communities, but also people’s individual career prospects through the work experiences that we offer.”

Visitors can also learn about drone- and robot-hacking.

The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with MOZN, a technology company that has created AI solutions for fighting financial crime and bolstering the financial services industry in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East, said Dajani.

MOZN announced earlier that it is participating as a Bronze Sponsor in the conference. They are showcasing their myriad AI-powered offerings, including financial intelligence products and solutions to address compliance, natural-language understanding and risk challenges for organizations in various industries.

In a comment earlier, Dr. Mohammed Alhussein, founder and CEO of MOZN, said: “We are thrilled to return to LEAP 2023 and demonstrate our innovative AI-powered products and solutions to a global audience of disruptive tech professionals.”

Dajani said he was proud of the “leap of faith that the Kingdom has taken in terms of positioning itself around technology in … the new digital economy in the Middle East and Africa.”

Deloitte has hired over 3,000 professionals across the region in 18 months to respond to growing market demand.

Some of Deloitte’s speakers during LEAP include Dr. Amira Khattab, a partner for cyber and strategic risk, Saudamini Dubey, lead partner for digital transformation, and Costi Perricos, the firm’s global AI leader.


A cooperation between Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo's tech company, Footlab arrives in Saudi Arabia

Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa's Footlab has partnered with Saudi company Confrontation Entertainment. (Supplied/Footlab)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa's Footlab has partnered with Saudi company Confrontation Entertainment. (Supplied/Footlab)
Updated 06 February 2023

A cooperation between Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo's tech company, Footlab arrives in Saudi Arabia

Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa's Footlab has partnered with Saudi company Confrontation Entertainment. (Supplied/Footlab)
  • Partnership between Portuguese legends is the world’s first indoor football measurements, performance and training park
  • Footlab has signed an agreement with Kingdom’s Confrontation Entertainment company

Saudi entertainment company Confrontation Entertainment has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with Footlab, a partnership by Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa.

Footlab, a cooperation between the Portuguese football legends through Ronaldo’s tech company 7EGEND, started from an idea to bring to life a blend of e-gaming, real-life football and technology. It is headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal, and opened in 2018.

At the platform, players can train, compete and keep track of their real-time performance data within different stations in the park, which are all connected in a digital ecosystem.

Footlab was designed with the next generation of football players in mind, providing players and trainers with the tools they need to measure and track performance in real time and use that information to create personalized development.

The technology behind it was developed in-house by Sports Scientists, a team of software and hardware engineers, UX designers, AI and data experts, to deliver the world’s leading football data-driven experience.

Luis Parafita, Footlab world CEO, expressed his gratitude for entering the Saudi market through this agreement. “Sports is an integral component of Saudi Arabia’s transformative Vision 2030, and we are thankful for the unconditional support of our partners and the perfect timing to launch Footlab in all (of the) Kingdom, having Cristiano here and world attention for what lies ahead.”

“Footlab aspires to change the game in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out, “with elite facilities and coaching staff dedicated to the analysis and development of players, empowering teams and groups of friends with challenges, to test and improve their cognitive, physical and technical skills.”

Ahmed Madani, Confrontation Entertainment CEO, said the growth of the sports and entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia made this an ideal time to introduce innovative projects such as Footlab in the market.

He said this partnership was aligned with the Quality of Life Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 realization projects “which encourages the private sector to contribute to the development of the entertainment and sports sector, by offering an abundance of new experiences that contribute to raising the quality of life.”