Saudi Arabia focuses on AI-driven economy, considers data the new oil: SDAIA

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Updated 25 September 2022

Saudi Arabia focuses on AI-driven economy, considers data the new oil: SDAIA

Saudi Arabia focuses on AI-driven economy, considers data the new oil: SDAIA
  • The technology will contribute billions to the Saudi national gross domestic product, says SDAIA's Mishari Al-Mishari

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority is aiming to create a leading data and AI-driven economy and make Saudi Arabia one of the top countries in the technology, the agency’s deputy director said. 

Mishari Al-Mishari, the deputy director of SDAIA, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Global AI Summit in Riyadh that SDAIA was created to be the custodian of the national agenda on data and AI.

“SDAIA was created to have an entity that will be the custodian of the national agenda of data and artificial intelligence to create a leading data and AI-driven economy,” he said. 

The conference, which SDAIA organized, hosted up to 30,000 hybrids and in-person attendees and had representatives from more than 90 countries, he said. 

“In this summit, we didn’t restrict it to the dialogues and the discussion; we emphasized the experience as well,” he added. 

SPEEDREAD

The conference, which SDAIA organized, hosted up to 30,000 hybrids and in-person attendees and had representatives from more than 90 countries, Mishari Al-Mishari, deputy director of SDAIA, said.

Over 40 use cases designed by leading companies and institutes in AI were presented at the conference, allowing attendees to interact with, live, and experience AI and understand how it could improve their lives, Al-Mishari said. 

During the event, SDAIA President Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi announced that the Kingdom is joining the World Bank’s Digital Development Partnership.

“We share a common vision with the DDP. The partnership will bring together the public and the private sector and accelerate safe and inclusive digital transformation in developing countries,” said Al-Ghamdi. 

He added: “I am confident we will make a real difference. I am looking forward to a fruitful collaboration.” 

Al-Mishari said the initiative would help underdeveloped economies adopt AI for the benefit of their citizens.

The technology, according to Al-Mishari, will contribute billions to the national gross domestic product. In addition, it could boost the economy with jobs, investments and opportunities for the Kingdom. 

“Data is the new oil, and that’s our perception and belief of how much we could make out of data,” Al-Mishari said. 

Public sector cloud

“SDAIA operates one of the biggest governmental clouds in the region, hosting approximately 140 governmental entities and providing 35 different cloud services,” Nawaf Al-Sahan, head of cloud computing at the National Information Center, told Arab News. 

NIC has also been harnessing its governmental cloud DEEM, founded in late 2018, as a proof of concept and has grown rapidly since then. 

At this point, NIC’s mandate is only to serve public sector undertakings, so he added that the DEEM exclusively serves public projects. 

Their internal team, entirely made up of Saudi female and male engineers, developed the cloud. 

“I am glad our team is all Saudis, young engineers, males and females. So that cloud is fully built by our Saudi talent,” Al-Sahan said. 

When it comes to cloud security, NIC implements strict measures. Two teams are responsible for securing the cloud, a larger team entrusted with governance, risk, and compliance does the monitoring for them, and an internal team performs penetration testing and their daily security operations, he said. 

Al-Sahan said that NIC is currently finished with its three-year strategy for 2025. 

As part of that strategy or roadmap, external vendors and partners participate in the government cloud, he said.

“So, we’ll open up a little bit for trusted partners to be part of the government cloud and provide unique services to the government entities,” he concluded. 

A 1-million-riyal idea 

SDAIA, in partnership with the Ministry of Rural Affairs and Housing and the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, announced “Smartathon — The Smart Cities Challenge” with prizes totaling SR1,000,000, according to Sattam Alsubaiee, assistant director for insights at NIC. 

The competition is open for anyone globally, he said. SDAIA wants participants to develop AI models that detect visual pollution automatically. 

“We give them the data, and everyone is invited to participate, take that data and build AI models that can detect the visual pollution,” Alsubaiee told Arab News. 

Because humans have limited resources, SDAIA and its partners do not want to deploy a vast workforce to detect that visual pollution with their eyes.

“You cannot deploy thousands of inspectors trying to find all the visual pollution in all the cities. So, we want the machine to help us automate in solving that problem,” he added. 

Alsubaiee cited graffiti on walls, poor-looking billboard signs and potholes as examples of visual pollutants.

SDAIA is publishing data they already have and collected to invite everyone to contribute and help them solve those problems, he said. 

“We want to make Saudi Arabia one of the smartest countries in the world, not just at the city level, but at the country level,” he concluded.


G7 joins EU on $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil

G7 joins EU on $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil
Updated 03 December 2022

G7 joins EU on $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil

G7 joins EU on $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil
  • US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that the agreement will help restrict Putin’s “primary source of revenue for his illegal war in Ukraine while simultaneously preserving the stability of global energy supplies”

WASHINGTON: The Group of Seven nations and Australia joined the European Union on Friday in adopting a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil, a key step as Western sanctions aim to reorder the global oil market to prevent price spikes and starve President Vladimir Putin of funding for his war in Ukraine.
Europe needed to set the discounted price that other nations will pay by Monday, when an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea and a ban on insurance for those supplies take effect. The price cap, which was led by the G7 wealthy democracies, aims to prevent a sudden loss of Russian oil to the world that could lead to a new surge in energy prices and further fuel inflation.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that the agreement will help restrict Putin’s “primary source of revenue for his illegal war in Ukraine while simultaneously preserving the stability of global energy supplies.”
The agreement comes after a last-minute flurry of negotiations. Poland long held up an EU agreement, seeking to set the cap as low as possible. Following more than 24 hours of deliberations, when other EU nations had signaled they would back the deal, Warsaw finally relented late Friday.
A joint G-7 coalition statement released Friday states that the group is “prepared to review and adjust the maximum price as appropriate,” taking into account market developments and potential impacts on coalition members and low and middle-income countries.
“Crippling Russia’s energy revenues is at the core of stopping Russia’s war machine,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, adding that she was happy the cap was pushed down a few extra dollars from earlier proposals. She said every dollar the cap was reduced amounted to $2 billion less for Russia’s war chest.
“It is no secret that we wanted the price to be lower,” Kallas added, highlighting the differences within the EU. “A price between 30-40 dollars is what would substantially hurt Russia. However, this is the best compromise we could get.”
The $60 figure sets the cap near the current price of Russia’s crude, which recently fell below $60 a barrel. Some criticize that as not low enough to cut into one of Russia’s main sources of income. It is still a big discount to international benchmark Brent, which slid to $85.48 a barrel Friday, but could be high enough for Moscow to keep selling even while rejecting the idea of a cap.
There is a big risk to the global oil market of losing large amounts of crude from the world’s No. 2 producer. It could drive up gasoline prices for drivers worldwide, which has stirred political turmoil for US President Joe Biden and leaders in other nations. Europe is already mired in an energy crisis, with governments facing protests over the soaring cost of living, while developing nations are even more vulnerable to shifts in energy costs.
But the West has faced increasing pressure to target one of Russia’s main moneymakers — oil — to slash the funds flowing into Putin’s war chest and hurt Russia’s economy as the war in Ukraine drags into a ninth month. The costs of oil and natural gas spiked after demand rebounded from the pandemic and then the invasion of Ukraine unsettled energy markets, feeding Russia’s coffers.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that “the cap itself will have the desired effect on limiting Mr. Putin’s ability to profit off of oil sales and limit his ability to continue to use that money to fund his war machine.”
More uncertainty is ahead, however. COVID-19 restrictions in China and a slowing global economy could mean less thirst for oil. That is what OPEC and allied oil-producing countries, including Russia, pointed to in cutting back supplies to the world in October. The OPEC+ alliance is scheduled to meet again Sunday.
That competes with the EU embargo that could take more oil supplies off the market, raising fears of a supply squeeze and higher prices. Russia exports roughly 5 million barrels of oil a day.
Putin has said he would not sell oil under a price cap and would retaliate against nations that implement the measure. However, Russia has already rerouted much of its supply to India, China and other Asian countries at discounted prices because Western customers have avoided it even before the EU embargo.
Most insurers are located in the EU or the United Kingdom and could be required to participate in the price cap.
Russia also could sell oil off the books by using “dark fleet” tankers with obscure ownership. Oil could be transferred from one ship to another and mixed with oil of similar quality to disguise its origin.
Even under those circumstances, the cap would make it “more costly, time-consuming and cumbersome” for Russia to sell oil around the restrictions, said Maria Shagina, a sanctions expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Berlin.
Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington, said the price cap should have been implemented when oil was hovering around $120 per barrel this summer.
“Since then, obviously oil prices have fallen and global recession is a real thing,” he said. “The reality is that it is unlikely to be binding given where oil prices are now.”
European leaders touted their work on the price cap, a brainchild of Yellen.
“The EU agreement on an oil price cap, coordinated with G7 and others, will reduce Russia’s revenues significantly,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. “It will help us stabilize global energy prices, benefiting emerging economies around the world.”
 

 


As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3bn from friendly country

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3bn from friendly country
Updated 03 December 2022

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3bn from friendly country

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3bn from friendly country
  • An IMF review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September
  • Pakistan's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said all targets for the IMF's ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to secure $3 billion in external financing from a friendly country in two weeks, its finance minister said on Friday as the South Asian country awaits IMF funding.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September, leaving Pakistan in dire need of external financing.
Pakistan’s finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said on Friday in an interview with Geo News TV that all targets for the IMF’s ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense.
Pakistan secured a $6 billion bailout in 2019 under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), that was topped up with another $1 billion earlier this year.
“We continue to engage in discussions with the government over policies to address the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of the floods while promoting macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability,” the IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said in a statement.
Dar said Pakistan’s foreign reserves, which have dropped to $7.5 billion, will be shored up with a $3 billion financing from a friendly country in the next two weeks.
That is hardly enough for a month of imports for Pakistan, which has been facing a widening current account deficit and a balance of payments crisis.
“All the requirements for the ninth (IMF) review are completed,” Dar said, adding that the international lender was “behaving abnormal” by not completing the review.
Pakistan will make alternate arrangements in case of any delay from the IMF, he said.
“If the money doesn’t come, we will manage, no problem,” he added.

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Dubai’s Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai’s Careem celebrates 1bn rides
Updated 02 December 2022

Dubai’s Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai’s Careem celebrates 1bn rides
  • Family trip back home to India brings delight to employee
  • Super app had 10th anniversary in July 

 

DUBAI: Hailing app Careem has celebrated the completion of 1 billion rides across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

The billionth journey was completed by Captain Razak Uppattil, who has completed 10,500 rides since joining Careem four years ago. 

To commemorate the milestone, the Dubai-based super app gave Uppattil a trip back home to visit his family in India.

He said: “It’s the people that I get to meet from all over the world that I really enjoy.

“I have three children back home in Kerala, India, and I am so excited I’ll see them soon.”

Genera Tesoro, who was Careem’s 1 billionth passenger, was given a year of ride-hailing trips to mark the milestone. 

Careem, which marked its 10-year anniversary in July, is now operating in more than 100 cities in 14 countries. It recently expanded its fleet in Qatar by more than 50 percent ahead of the World Cup.


Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company

Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company
Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company

Saudi Arabia’s PIF announces establishment of Aseer Investment Company
  • AIC will unlock a wide range of investment opportunities for domestic and international investors across number of sectors

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has established a company to operate as its investment arm in the Aseer region of Saudi Arabia.

The Aseer Investment Company will promote and stimulate local and foreign direct investment to develop and transform the region into a year-round tourism destination.

AIC will unlock a wide range of investment opportunities for domestic and international investors across number of sectors including tourism, hospitality, healthcare, sports, education, food, and many other fast-growing domestic industries.

The company will contribute to fostering public-private partnerships, creating jobs for the local community and promoting the region’s tourism and attractive investment opportunities.

“Aseer Investment Company aims to become a leading facilitator of broad-ranging investment opportunities in Aseer, Raid Ismail, head of Direct Investments for the Middle East and North Africa at PIF said.  

“AIC will promote the region’s rugged mountains, stunning nature, and storied culture, preserve its ancient history and heritage, and transform it into a world-class tourist destination for visitors from across the globe in line with PIF’s strategy and Vision 2030,” he added.

The establishment of the company is in line with PIF’s strategy to unlock the capabilities of promising sectors in Saudi Arabia, support the country, and in line with Asir’s region position as a leading investment destination.

Saudi Arabia is offering investment opportunities worth $6 trillion in the travel and tourism sector through to 2030.

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 29, the Saudi Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khateeb said: “We built our tourism industry against the backdrop of a global disaster (COVID-19 pandemic). And we now have $6 trillion of investment opportunities through 2030,” said Al-Khateeb.

Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector will create 1 million jobs by 2030 and the Kingdom will welcome 100 million visitors, said Qusai Al-Fakhri, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Development Fund earlier this year.

The sector will create one of every three new jobs in Saudi Arabia in the next decade, as the nation focuses more on the growth of non-oil sectors, said Al-Fakhri.

Talking about the progress of the Saudi tourism sector at the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh, he said: “Last year, with the support of the tourism ecosystem, and the larger government ecosystem and enablers, Saudi Arabia achieved record levels of domestic tourism that is remarkable globally.”

Al-Fakhri also noted that the tourism sector is expected to contribute 10 percent to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by the end of this decade.


TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell
Updated 01 December 2022

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index on Thursday fell 74.26 points to close at 10,840.74 after touching a peak of 10,957.64 at 10:20 SAST, reflecting a sense of ambiguity among investors. 

The parallel market Nomu also finished its trail 497.85 points lower at 18,903.74 after snowballing to 18,778.82 at 11:53 SAST. 

The advance-decline ratio, however, bucked the trend, with 126 stocks of the listed 219 heading north and 75 turning south. The total trading turnover was SR4.86 billion ($1.29 billion). 

Sahara International Petrochemical Co., in a regulatory filing on Thursday, announced a 15 percent cash dividend or SR1.50 per share, resulting in a dole out of SR1.087 billion for the second half of 2022. The company’s share price picked the drift and closed 5.72 percent higher to SR37.90. 

Taiba Investments Co. on Thursday also announced that it awarded a construction contract worth SR283 million to Orient Construction Company Weavers Ltd. to build a four-star Novotel hotel project in Madinah. The stock closed lower at SR26.90 after peaking at SR27.10. 

Meanwhile, Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. (Solutions) informed Tadawul just before closing about its agreement with Saudi Telecom Company worth SR372.92 million to provide technical, administrative and logistical services. The share closed slightly lower at SR246. 

The Capital Market Authority on Thursday also Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co.’s request to increase its capital through a rights issue worth SAR 346.5 million. 

There was a blip of a bullish wave in the Software & Services index, which closed up 401 points at 36,540.33. The Healthcare Equipment & Services index also increased 103.04 points to close at 9,380.2.  

However, some of Thursday’s biggest losers were the Saudi British Bank, the National Company for Learning and Education, Arab National Bank, The Company for Cooperative Insurance and Bank Albilad. 

The Diversified Financial index was under the weather in November as it recorded the steepest decline of 15.9 percent in the Gulf Cooperation Council in November. 

A Kamco Invest research report highlighted that the Saudi Stock Exchange witnessed the after all the constituents of the index reported declines. 

Barring the Consumer Service index, the monthly sectoral performance chart declined across the board.  

The Utilities and Capital Goods indices were next with a decline of 15.2 percent and 11.7 percent, followed by Consumer Durables & Apparel and Materials indices with declines of 10.8 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively.