Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world

Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world
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Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)
Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world
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Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)
Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world
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Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)
Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world
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Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)
Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world
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Delegates at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday listen to expert opinions about digital threats and the strategies for addressing them. (GCF photo)
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Updated 10 November 2022

Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world

Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh hears calls for greater resources to police online world
  • Companies experiencing higher operational costs owing to theft, network downtime and rising insurance premiums
  • The second edition of the Global Cybersecurity Forum is being held on Nov. 9-10 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh

RIYADH: Cybercrime is set to play havoc with companies’ top lines, speakers at the Global Cybersecurity Forum warned on Wednesday as calls were sounded for greater resources to police the online world.

Attendees at the event, being held in Riyadh, heard how damage caused by hackers was expected to amount to $10.5 trillion by 2025, and that firms were experiencing soaring operational costs because of increases in real-time losses owing to theft, network downtime, and rising insurance premiums.

Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh, acting chief executive officer of Saudi Basic Industries Corp., said warnings were getting louder as firms battled against an increasing number of attacks.




Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar opening the 2022 edition of the GCF. (Supplied)

“At an organizational level, it affects revenue and costs. For example, revenue in organizations has been reduced by five to 10 percent due to cyberattacks.

“The downtime to resolve cyberattacks can take up to 45 days. In addition, costs are becoming unpredictable as insurance costs are increasing significantly,” he added.

Khaled Al-Dhaher, deputy governor for control and technology at the Saudi Central Bank, urged companies to invest in technology wisely.

He pointed out that investment in firewalls and security middleware, with the proper governance approach and capability, could go a long way in detecting and troubleshooting the growing menace.

“It will create the right impact for the cybersecurity strategy. There has to be a continuous investment in innovation to address these evolving landscapes, and it is critical to have some threat intelligence,” Al-Dhaher said.

And he noted that businesses could not fight in isolation.

“A collaboration between different entities is a must because this is a war against criminals trying to damage us,” he added.

The forum heard that one of the worst-affected industries in cyberspace was the financial sector, especially the crypto community, which had been at the receiving end of cybersecurity problems.

According to speakers at the event, there was an increasing need for innovation in the financial sector, which had recently introduced user-friendly measures such as open banking.

Al-Dhaher said: “There is no doubt that innovation is critical to enabling and continuing trust in this sector. Artificial intelligence can help predict, protect, and minimize the impact.”

Saudi Arabia had recognized the threat and was gearing up to combat cybercrime, according to Alex Liu, managing partner and chairman of global management consulting firm Kearney.

He said the Kingdom had made huge progress in its commitment to combating cyberattacks, with Saudi Arabia ranking second on the Global Cybersecurity Index among nations committed to cybersecurity.

“I’m inspired by the fact that in just two short years, the Kingdom has become No. 2, and I think that comes from urgency and proactivity,” he added.

Liu noted that cybersecurity was one of the top three risks facing countries and companies and the urgency to counter it needed to be increased.

During a separate panel session, Isa Ali Ibrahim, Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, suggested that the world needed 3.4 million more cybersecurity professionals to combat the rise in online crime.

He said: “In July, a report suggested that we need 8.1 million cybersecurity professionals globally this year. Today, we have around 4.7 million professionals, and still, we have a vacancy of 3.4 million.” He added that malware was being released every 4.2 seconds.




Isa Ali Ibrahim, Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy. (GCF photo)

“If you compute this 4.2 seconds for one week, you will discover that every week, 144,000 malware applications are being released. It is the responsibility of the government to set standards and guidelines to ensure that there is no compromise to cybersecurity.”

Citing a UN report, the minister noted that the world population would hit 8 billion by Nov. 15 and that the population boom was demanding a rise in funds for cybersecurity initiatives by governments.

He said: “According to Accenture, by 2023, the total amount that will be lost through cybercrime could be more than $5.3 trillion, and it is more than 35 percent of the entire gross domestic product of a country like China with a population of 1.44 billion. It is more than 173 percent of the entire gross domestic product of Africa with 53 countries.”

Ibrahim added that by 2025, the total amount lost to cybercrime would reach $10.5 trillion.

Highlighting the findings of an Accenture report, he said that a cyberattack took place somewhere in the world in every 39 seconds.

“These attacks may be either targeting individuals, sometimes private sectors, or public sectors. Because of this, governments are spending a huge percentage of their wealth on cybersecurity.

“In addition, what I think is critical here is the need to attain cybersecurity maturity, and most importantly to attain cybersecurity immunity.

“We must be in a situation, where people, even when they attack, what they are going to lose from the attack is even higher than the damage or costs to the institution which they attacked,” Ibrahim added.

Cybersecurity methods, he said, required a proactive approach as technology was advancing every day.

Craig Jones, the cybercrime director of global policing organization Interpol, said that law enforcement was not currently equipped to deal effectively with transnational crime such as cybercrime.

He pointed out that Interpol found it easier to deal with commodity-based crimes such as drugs and human trafficking, because it fitted into the police model of a particular jurisdiction, unlike cybercrime.

“The legislation is different country to country. We see the European Union, you have 27 member countries with joint laws, joint inputs, joint political initiatives, to deal with and combat cybercrime.

“But once you spread that out across the globe, there are different priorities. Some countries don’t even have the requisite laws. So, if it appears criminals are operating from one country, another country then tries to come in and identify these criminals and look to prosecute them and extradite them,” Jones added.

He also discussed the role of the police in combating cybercrime.

“The role of police is to protect communities; police are drawn from their communities. The policing model essentially was set up to deal with a local problem; a crime scene being local, the offender being local, and the victim being local.

“We could then develop legislation and laws, which could then be carried out by law enforcement in their country.”

In terms of law enforcement, he highlighted Interpol’s role in its 195 member countries.

Jones said: “What we’re seeking to do is to reduce the global impact of cybercrime and protect communities for a safer world and the model we’re following as a policing model.

“We’re looking from a global to local perspective. How can Interpol support and coordinate activities and operations, and we do it with people, process, and technology.”




One of the sessions, titled ‘Incentive Reinvention,’ moderated by Rawan Radwan of Arab News, examined what motivates cybercriminals and how an understanding of this can help efforts to combat their activities. (GCF photo)

Participating in the same panel, Marco Gercke, an international expert in the field of law related to cybercrime, said financial interest was often a driving factor, and criminals were taking advantage of increased digitalization.

“They’re realizing that they can make a lot of money by getting involved in this. The business models have changed. But it’s quite lucrative and it’s rather easy to set up. You don’t need to be an organized crime business that is in the market for a long period of time to get involved in cybercrime.

“And we have to be smart on the other side, through having the appropriate laws in place and having self-defense measures as companies, and as countries in place, changing our behavior, how we use devices, and how we protect ourselves, to respond to this increasing threat,” Gercke added.

 


KSRelief organizes marketing exhibition for household products in Yemen

KSRelief organizes marketing exhibition for household products in Yemen
Updated 21 sec ago

KSRelief organizes marketing exhibition for household products in Yemen

KSRelief organizes marketing exhibition for household products in Yemen
  • These included pastry making, sewing, embroidery, and hairdressing products

DUBAI: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) inaugurated on Friday a marketing exhibition for household products in Yemen’s Lahj.

The aim of the exhibition was to empower young men and women trying to improve their livelihood by enabling them to display their work in the exhibition, state agency SPA reported.

These included pastry making, sewing, embroidery, and hairdressing products.

Efforts and outcomes from the training course offered in the marketing exhibition were praised by the Director of Yemen’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor in Lahj.

Meanwhile, the Director of KSRelief’s branch in Aden, Saleh Al-Dhibani, said the project will contribute to ‘improving the livelihood of beneficiaries, empowering them economically, and providing them with sustainable job opportunities’, wrote SPA.  

The recent initiative is among several support programs launched in 2022 aimed at developing the skills of young men and women to help them improve their living standards.

Related


Three women go solo with artwork at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery

Three women go solo with artwork at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery
Updated 03 February 2023

Three women go solo with artwork at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery

Three women go solo with artwork at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery
  • Event comes as part of the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale 2023 at the Western Hajj Terminal in Jeddah

JEDDAH: The Athr Gallery is showcasing three independently curated solo shows, sponsored by the Cultural Development Fund, until April.

The work of two Saudi nationals, Daniah Al-Saleh, Asma Bahmim, and one Kuwaiti national, Farah Behbehani, is being featured at the gallery.  

Al-Saleh’s show is titled “Keep Smiling,” which addresses the use of non-verbal symbols in modern communication in an increasingly digitized world.  “Our method of communication might have changed from a clay tablet to a smart tablet or smartphone. It seems that we as a society have accepted emojis as part of our daily life,” she told Arab News.

The work of two Saudi nationals, Daniah Al-Saleh, Asma Bahmim, and one Kuwaiti national, Farah Behbehani, is being featured at the gallery, which will be displayed until April. (Photo/Adnan Salem Mahdali)

“We have collectively evolved by using a digital version of hieroglyphics in the form of pictographic codes and emoticons that offers the recipient insights on the possible mood of the sender.

“It addresses the context of emojis and ubiquitousness and the usage of the pop culture and its usage of emojis in everyday text, everyday communication. In here, I’m questioning the use of emojis. Is it a sort of mask, is it sort of proxy for our emotion or mental state? Or does it really help in exploring our emotion and relating to the other — communicating better messages? I leave the answers to the viewer,” she said.

Bahmim’s work, titled “Fantasia: A World Between Reality and Imagination” is also attention-grabbing.

The work of two Saudi nationals, Daniah Al-Saleh, Asma Bahmim, and one Kuwaiti national, Farah Behbehani, is being featured at the gallery, which will be displayed until April. (Photo/Adnan Salem Mahdali)

Her work encapsulates the essence of the Islamic Arts Biennale spirit. She uses animals to generate fictional dialogues and highlights the importance of the tradition of storytelling.

“Fantasia was definitely a passion project for me. The medium and technicalities of it serve an essential role in the message I wanted to bring out, which was a culmination of a lifetime of exposure and research in storytelling,” Bahmim said of her solo show at ATHR.

“I wanted to bring to life the daydreams that crossed my mind going through a story in a book. I wanted the viewer to be lost in the fantasies, not just in the story but the backstory of the elements of these stories,” she told Arab News.

Farah Behbehani has been using Islamic cultural forms and Arabic words as inspiration. (Photo/Adnan Salem Mahdali)

Behbehani’s elegant work, transcending time and space, is aptly titled “And Make Me Light,” inspired by words that she has masterfully re-interpreted.

“The concept of the show is returning back to light through spirituality. One of my biggest works is based on a dua (prayer).”

“Basically for this entire poetic verse, I took the words of this verse and I incorporated it into the geometry design; each word has been transformed in square Kufic calligraphy to fit within the geometry of this work,” she told Arab News as her young son stood by, his eyes alight with pride.

Visitor appreciating Asma Bahmim’s Fantasia. (Photo/Adnan Salem Mahdali)

Behbehani has been using Islamic cultural forms and Arabic words as inspiration for decades.

Using Qur’anic verses, poetry and prose, her intricate calligraphic designs are enveloped into each of the seven administration buildings at Kuwait University.

The buildings served as “stoic structures” for her art as “an ephemeral play of light and shadow through a maze of letters that draw upon references from Islamic literature.”

The work of two Saudi nationals, Daniah Al-Saleh, Asma Bahmim, and one Kuwaiti national, Farah Behbehani, is being featured at the gallery, which will be displayed until April. (Photo/Adnan Salem Mahdali)

Behbehani’s exhibitions and shows are displayed both in the MENA region and worldwide. She is the author of the 2009 book “The Conference of the Birds,” based on the 12th-century Sufi allegorical poem. Her book interpreted the classic text through illustrations in Jali Diwani script.

Behbehani is also participating in the Islamic Arts Biennale this month with her “Path of Light” three-paneled kinetic piece, which was inspired by a poetic verse from writer Ahmed Shawi’s tribute to Prophet Muhammad.

The opening of the three solo shows comes as part of the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale 2023 at the Western Hajj Terminal in Jeddah.

Athr gallery issued this statement exclusively for Arab News: “Our relationship with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation has been strong since the inception of the foundation and its first edition in 2021.

“Many artists have been showcased at the biennale, with artists such as Ahmed Mater being in both editions. In the current edition (Islamic Arts Biennale 2023), we have seven artists featured, again highlighting the diversity of our roster and their practices.”

“We have aligned with DBF to be included on their schedule and to have the openings of our exhibitions to coincide with the opening program of the biennale as a way to reinforce the importance of a holistic approach to supporting the arts.

“Athr has been established since 2009, and we are now glad that newly established entities like DBF and their activities amplify the efforts of the private sector.”

For more information on hours of operation and to book an appointment, visit Athr’s social media channels and the Diriyah Biennale page.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Art Prize 2023 open for submissions with $100,000 up for grabs

The prize ‘reaffirms Ithra’s commitment to developing the creative industries in Saudi Arabia.’. (Supplied)
The prize ‘reaffirms Ithra’s commitment to developing the creative industries in Saudi Arabia.’. (Supplied)
Updated 03 February 2023

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Art Prize 2023 open for submissions with $100,000 up for grabs

The prize ‘reaffirms Ithra’s commitment to developing the creative industries in Saudi Arabia.’. (Supplied)
  • Award created by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture now in its fifth edition
  • Artists from across Arab world have until April 1 to submit entries

DHAHRAN: Arab artists around the world are being invited to submit their proposals for the fifth edition of the Ithra Art Prize and the chance to win $100,000 to bring their idea to life.

Created by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, the competition is open to contemporary artists and art collectives from the 22 member nations of the Arab league.

Those are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen. Non-native artists who have lived in one of these countries for at least 10 years are also eligible to apply.

The call for entries opened on Tuesday and closes on April 1. The winner will be announced on May 15 and the successful artwork will be unveiled in June as part of Ithra’s fifth anniversary celebrations. It will later become part of the center’s permanent art collection.

FASTFACTS

• Award created by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture now in its fifth edition.

• Artists from across Arab world have until April 1 to submit entries.

Launched in 2017, the Ithra is one of the most prominent art grants in the world. All of the entries are considered and judged by a global panel of experts, comprising artists, curators, academics and art historians.

The first three editions of the prize were organized alongside Art Dubai, while last year’s winning entry was unveiled in collaboration with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation at the Kingdom’s inaugural biennale.

“The Ithra Art Prize reaffirms Ithra’s commitment to developing the creative industries in the Kingdom, the region and the wider world,” said Farah Abushullaih, head of museum at Ithra.

“As one of the largest art grants internationally, we support artists from and based in the Arab world to develop important and meaningful work.

“The Ithra Art Prize aims to inspire creative thought, broaden cultural horizons and enable talent while empowering the art ecosystem,” she added.

Past winners include UAE-based Ayman Zedani, whose spatial installation “Mem” took the inaugural prize, while London-based Daniah Al-Saleh won in 2019 with “Sawtam,” a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language.

The third edition was won by Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif for his “Rakhm” installation, while Berlin-based Tunisian-Ukrainian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke won in 2022 with “E Pluribus Unum — A Modern Fossil,” which takes a reflective look at the effects of the pandemic on the travel industry and how humanity measures progress and economic growth.

More information about Ithra and the competition is available via www.ithra.com.

 


How digital boost for braille literacy is helping people with visual impairments across the Arab world

How digital boost for braille literacy is helping people with visual impairments across the Arab world
Updated 04 February 2023

How digital boost for braille literacy is helping people with visual impairments across the Arab world

How digital boost for braille literacy is helping people with visual impairments across the Arab world
  • Prices of once expensive electronic braille devices are falling, demand for software is growing
  • Educators in Saudi Arabia are adopting assistive tech to include students with visual disabilities

JEDDAH: Digital technologies are transforming the way in which people of all languages and backgrounds communicate, making work, study and socializing across national and cultural boundaries easier and more inclusive.

However, many of the latest innovations in communications technology have tended to be geared toward smartphones, tablets and e-readers — formats that are not always conducive to people with visual impairments.

French inventor Louis Braille. (Supplied)

Now, recent enhancements to a 200-year-old system of writing are helping people with visual disabilities feel included in a greater variety of jobs and fields of study and forms of entertainment.

French inventor Louis Braille, who lost his sight at the age of three, in 1824 developed a system of communication consisting of a code of 63 characters, each made up of one to six raised dots arranged in a six-position matrix or cell, designed to fit under a fingertip.

These characters, known as braille, are embossed in lines on paper and read by passing the fingers lightly over the manuscript. From alphabets to musical notation, braille opened a world of possibilities for the visually impaired.

According to the World Health Organization, around 40 million people worldwide are blind, while another 250 million have some form of visual impairment. A survey conducted in 2017 by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics found that some 811,610 Saudis are visually impaired.

A unified Arabic braille code was adopted in the 1950s as part of the move toward a universal braille system. This has allowed many of them to live, work and study unsupported.

The Arabic braille alphabet. (Shutterstock image)

Authorities in the Kingdom have taken measures to create a more inclusive society, using braille on the packaging of medicines and by establishing work programs to integrate the visually impaired into the workforce.

The Kingdom has also established branches of Al-Noor Institute for the Blind, which provide courses for school children, in addition to integrated classes in universities through a national program that guarantees the right to an education.

A student at a school for the blind in Riyadh is pictured operating a machine in a photograph taken on April 25, 1967. (Getty Images)

Speaking to Arab News, Khaled Al-Harbi, spokesperson for the National Association of the Blind, known as Kafeef, said education paved the way for those with special needs to become an integral part of their communities.

Kafeef’s mission, he said, is to empower people with visual impairments through programs launched in coordination with government and private entities.

“I, like many members, received moral support and guidance from Kafeef from a young age, and enrolled in programs,” Al-Harbi told Arab News.

“We were provided tools, learned new skills using our hands, and, with time, we launched several awareness programs and braille training courses for the visually impaired and visually acute with the latest — Iqra — the first certified braille training program.

“We’ve seen lately several initiatives that target the community, such as sending gift cards in braille, and it’s very commendable, but it can also go the other way. There is a need for more inclusion from the visually impaired to utilize technology for their benefit and the benefit of the community.”

Tech advances in audio software and screen-reading programs on computers and smartphones have made life easier for the visually impaired. (Shutterstock)

As digital developers have tended to prioritize audio software, such as screen-reading programs on computers and smartphones, some argue that braille has become a less important tool for people with visual impairments.

However, researchers believe learning braille from an early age can greatly improve literacy, as it is a much better way to understand punctuation, grammar, and spelling than using audio resources alone.

For many years, electronic braille devices were prohibitively expensive, placing them out of reach of many people with visual impairments, particularly those in developing countries. Now prices are beginning to fall and the demand for new software is growing.

VersaBraille by American manufacturer TeleSensory Corporation was first made commercially available in 1982. (Wikipedia)

The first braille displays appeared in the mid-1970s, and the first commercially produced braille display, the VersaBraille, was released in 1982. Five years later, the Braille ‘n Speak was released as the first portable notetaker.

Newer refreshable braille devices make it possible for users to read text from a digital screen when connected to a PC, tablet or phone. Such devices mimic the familiar raised dot patterns using tiny movable pins.

FASTFACTS

811,000 people in Saudi Arabia have some form of vision disability, according to the GSTAT Disability Survey 2017.

A unified Arabic braille code was adopted in the 1950s as part of the move toward a universal braille system.

However, with such a heavy reliance on cables and bluetooth connectivity, these systems are not always the most practical or user friendly. Furthermore, physical braille keyboards that allow users to enter text are not particularly mobile.

It was these drawbacks that led Google to develop its own innovative built-in keyboard called TalkBack, which comes as a part of the Android Operating System and does not require any external hardware.

In 2018, Google also launched an AI-powered app called Lookout to help low-vision users interact with their surroundings. The app can read signs and labels, scan barcodes, and even identify currencies.

In 2014, Apple introduced its own on-screen braille keyboard for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices called iBrailler Notes.

The app enables users to navigate across text and perform tasks without connecting additional hardware. One striking feature of the app is that the keys automatically form around the fingertips when they are placed on the screen.

iBraille Notes on-screen braille keyboard by Apple. (Social media)

Many new braille technologies are yet to reach the market and several are still in the conceptual or prototype phase. New scanning features, audio descriptions, language identifiers, machine-learning tools, text mining, and speech processors could all soon appear in forthcoming assistive technologies.

Abdulrahman Al-Atawi, a professor at the college of computing and informatics and supervisor of the Center for Innovation in E-learning at the Saudi Electronic University, the first university in the Kingdom to exclusively adopt e-learning strategies and technologies, told Arab News that such technologies will play a significant part in students’ journeys.

In January, the Global Trends in E-Learning forum was held in Riyadh, where global leaders in the education sector shared their insights, exchanged experiences and discussed strategies to serve the online learning process.

The two-day Global Trends in E-Learning event that took place in Riyadh on Feb. 21-23 brought together resource persons and participants from 20 countries and 50 companies. (AN file photo)

As part of the forum’s objectives, a contest for EdTech entrepreneurs, faculty and students from across the Kingdom showcased innovative projects using emerging technologies to serve the education sector.

Al-Atawi, who also headed the Committee for the Innovation Oasis and GTEL Demofest, said some of the winning projects were focused on people with special needs.

“For many, the braille code allows the blind and visually impaired to read any form of writing, but when it comes to images and pictures, that’s another story,” he said.

“One of the winning projects, a smart reader for the visually impaired, found a solution to that, verbally describing that image.

“In this era of modern science, we wish to get every bit of information in digital form. With the right tools, we can help members of the special needs community.”

 


Saudi employment forum draws huge crowds in Tabuk

Thousands of Saudi graduates participated in the forum. (SPA)
Thousands of Saudi graduates participated in the forum. (SPA)
Updated 03 February 2023

Saudi employment forum draws huge crowds in Tabuk

Thousands of Saudi graduates participated in the forum. (SPA)
  • The forum was in line with Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program and Vision 2030

TABUK: More than 15,000 graduates took part in a three-day employment forum at Tabuk University, which ended on Thursday.
The event, which attracted support from local and international companies, provided a platform for graduates in a range of disciplines from across the Kingdom to meet and talk with prospective employers.
The first of its kind for the university, the forum was in line with the country’s National Transformation Program and Vision 2030, and also sought to raise key issues about the environment and working practices.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s job numbers witnessed their strongest growth rate since January 2018, as non-oil companies witnessed a sharp expansion in business activity driven by robust market demand and business intake, according to a report.