A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene

A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
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Basmah Felemban’s work takes a closer look at the journey of a species of fish from their own home to the Najd desert. (Abdulrahman Shalhoub)
A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
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Daniah AlSaleh’s ‘Love Stories’ struck something personal as she reminded people of the beauty and innocence of love. (Abdulrahman Shalhoub)
A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
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Bashaer Hawsawi’s ‘Early Ripening’ utilizes the symbol of lemons, made from fiberglass of different hues, to demonstrate the process of pickling. (Abdulrahman Shalhoub)
A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
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Studio Roosegaarde created a mysterious dream-like waterscape across the pond at Salam Park in the artwork titled ‘Waterlicht.’ (Huda Bashatah)
A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
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Groundbreaking artist and lighting designer Marc Brickman was responsible for light shows for the likes of Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney. (Huda Bashatah)
A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
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Daniah AlSaleh’s artwork ‘Delicate’ uses suspended fragments of mixed media to explore the idea of hierarchy and inequality through a skeptical lens. (Nada Alturki)
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Updated 18 November 2022

A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene

A liminal space: The soft power of Saudi’s growing art scene
  • In this time of great change in Saudi Arabia, and an age of technology, the Kingdom might show us whether art still has the power to influence and shape societies

RIYADH: Art has been known throughout history to reflect, or even elicit, social, cultural and artistic change in cultures. The Renaissance period in Europe beginning in the 14th century, for example, or India’s Bengali Renaissance in the 19th century.

Now, Saudi Arabia, a country that was founded only 90 years ago and is currently undergoing a period of great transformation under its Vision 2030 diversification and development program, finds itself in a liminal, or transitional, space bordered on one side by historical behaviorism and on the other by the dawn of the future. As such, one can only wonder if the Kingdom’s experience will show us whether, in an age of technology, art still has the power to truly influence our societies?

In common with many other aspects of Saudi society, the arts sector is experiencing a period of rapid development and growth. Thanks to the establishment of a variety of arts festivals, increased government funding, the launch of exhibitions, and the introduction of public art installations, the country is slowly embracing, or rediscovering, its own local, traditional art forms, creating new ones, and opening the door to cultural-exchange opportunities by hosting exhibitions of international art.

The second annual Noor Riyadh festival of light illuminated the streets of Riyadh this month, for example. Staged under the auspices of Riyadh Art under the theme “We Dream of New Horizons,” this year’s event was three times bigger than the inaugural festival in 2021, with works by more than 120 local and international artists on display in public spaces at 40 locations across the city.

Architect Khalid Al-Hazani, Riyadh Art’s program director, said the festival aims to create joyful experiences for the people of Riyadh by highlighting the beauty of their city’s natural landscapes and cityscapes.

“The reality of Noor Riyadh 2022 is that through a sense of wonder, the artists are exploring the use of illumination, luminosity and their own encounters with materials as staging relations to otherness and hope in the form of light,” Al-Hazani told Arab News.

The festival therefore looks to a more hopeful future after the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It imagines a city without borders, art without frames and poses a crucial question: Who is Noor Riyadh for?

“Our main purpose is to reach the widest audience possible, going beyond traditional art audiences to the wider public,” Al-Hazani said.

During this period of transformation in Saudi society, contemporary artists throughout the country are seizing the opportunity to slowly normalize certain ideas that were previously considered controversial by societal standards.

Saudi artist Daniah Al-Saleh said her first exposure to contemporary art was in the early 1990s during a visit to the Venice Biennale. After an undergraduate education in Riyadh that exposed her only to classical, impressionist and modern art, she said she was enlightened by the malleability of artistic expression.

“That just opened doors for me and made me reflect and think about what art can be,” she told Arab News.

Her own artistic practice often utilizes aspects of computing and machine learning to translate abstract ideas into reality. She said she aims to push the boundaries with artworks and installations that combine traditional forms of art such as paintings, with more innovative content such as computer programming code.

One of Al-Saleh’s installations at Noor Riyadh, “Love Stories,” is on display at Oud Square in the city’s Diplomatic Quarter. It examines the traditional resistance to public displays of love and affection in conservative societies.

“There’s this tension and double standard between the things that we know are okay in songs and poetry but not okay in real life,” she said.

Her artwork is comprised of multiple figures, generated by artificial intelligence and projected onto pillars, that lip sync to 26 well-known Arabic love songs that feature lyrics about public declarations of feelings of love. Al-Saleh said the reaction to the work was unexpected.

“I saw people, non Saudis, sitting and smiling, because I translated the lyrics in English,” she said. “For me, as an artist, to see people sitting by an installation for more than five or 10 minutes, it’s a huge deal.

“For the Arab population, they sat and sang with these AI characters; you see them smiling … it’s such a powerful feeling and brings people and communities together.”

Al-Saleh’s second installation at Noor Riyadh, “Delicate,” which is on display in the Jax District, considers ideas of hierarchy and inequality through a skeptical eye. Inspired by the words of Adrienne Maree Brown in her book “Emerging Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds,” the artwork is based on biomimicry: The process of emulating natural elements to solve global problems.

Al-Saleh’s mixed-media work was created using wood, wool, digital computations, paper, canvas and one of the world’s oldest materials, felt, all of which work together, she said, to create a suspended ecosystem of beauty and self-sustainability.

Saudi artist Bashaer Hawsawi said the first step toward bigger changes in attitudes toward art in a society is to encourage greater public engagement with the local art scene.

“The simplest form is photographs of pieces of art on social media,” she said. “It’ll spread around, people will see that this is happening, they’ll talk, ask and want to know more.”

Hawsawi’s work “Early Ripening” adds a private angle to public art. It portrays methods of pickling lemons and was inspired by her own early memories of watching her mother carrying out the process. She said the work aims to highlight the simplicity of everyday tasks in public spaces but also the substantial role they play in local culture. Scattered across the landscape of Wadi Hanifa, the artwork uses fiberglass lemons to depict the pickling process, the products of which are used in some Saudi communities as tonic to aid recovery.

Saudi artist Basmah Felemban told Arab News: “We’re in an interesting position where all of us should talk about all of our experiences, away from necessarily any forced discourse from the international conversations that are happening.”

Felemban’s works explore ideas of ethnicity, immigration and cultural origins, topics traditionally rarely discussed publicly in the region. She said she hopes to spark conversations and answer questions about her own history.

In her work “The Eleventh View of Time,” the viewer observes, through projected images at Wadi Hanifa’s Ringing Bird Lake, the journey undertaken by another species, which has parallels with the artist’s own story of immigration, ethnicity and ancestry, stretching from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia,.

Conversations about cultural diversity are more common in the West, and the artist believes that the Middle East needs to develop its own ways to address these topics “that adhere to our historical backgrounds.”

With the aim of helping to transform the art world from a perceived image of elitism to populism, the artworks at Noor Riyadh are designed to present new ideas and spark cultural discourse on a local and global scale.

“Good art inspires but great art activates,” said contributing Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.

His artwork “Waterleight,” on display at Salam Park, uses a captivating and mysterious laser show to call attention to the effects of climate change. It shows the potential global results of rising sea levels, against the backdrop of plans for a greener, more sustainable future under Vision 2030.

His native Netherlands, he said, would already be underwater without the application of technology, science and creativity.

“The world is changing, so we have to somehow adapt … I think it’s important to realize that we have to invent, imagine and create that new world — it doesn’t happen by itself — (and) learn from the mistakes that we’ve made,” Roosegaarde said.

Cultural exchange is a crucial element in an evolving art scene, according to renowned artist and lighting designer Marc Brickman, who served as a consultant on the plans for the landmark Al-Faisaliyah building 24 years ago.

Now, he has created a 2,000-drone light show that uses science and technology to encourage us to question our need for order in a chaotic world.

“I think art throughout the ages has always been the leading element because it deals with people’s imaginations and the way they think,” Brickman said.

“And a lot of times they’ve tried to stamp it out and conform it but it always rises back to the top.”


Saudi king, crown prince offer condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake

Saudi king, crown prince offer condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake
Updated 07 February 2023

Saudi king, crown prince offer condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake

Saudi king, crown prince offer condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake
  • 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 King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered their condolences to Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and people after an earthquake rocked the country on Monday.

“We send to you, the families of the victims, and the Turkish people our sincere condolences and sympathy,” King Salman said. “We reiterate our stand with you in this painful event.” He wished the injured a speedy recovery and the missing a safe return.

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.


How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  

How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  
Updated 07 February 2023

How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  

How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  
  • Adopting sustainable approaches to energy will be critical to achieving net zero, experts tell Arab News at LEAP23
  • Kingdom can maintain its energy leadership through development, sustainability and innovation, says Saudi official 

RIYADH: Technology could provide the sustainable solutions required to combat climate change and drive forward an inclusive clean energy transition, experts said on the sidelines of the LEAP23 Conference in Riyadh on Monday.

Governments and businesses worldwide are responding to rising global temperatures by pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, many experts believe these commitments can only be realized through the adoption of new technologies.

At the second edition of LEAP, a four-day annual tech convention, climate scientists rubbed shoulders with industry leaders to explore how technology can help mitigate, or even reverse, the effects of climate change.

Dr. Gasem Fallatah, deputy program director of the Oil Sustainability Program at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy, believes an equitable energy transition can be achieved through inclusiveness with collaborative approaches between governments and industry.

Gasem Fallatah, from the Ministry of Energy’s Oil Sustainability Program. (AN Photo)

“The key word [for energy transition] is inclusiveness,” Fallatah told Arab News on the sidelines of LEAP23.

“We need to consider that when we are moving towards that transition and allowing every nation, geography, and economy to go for what is best suited for them, yet deliver on what you are supposed to deliver.

“In Saudi Arabia, inclusiveness is vital because we cater for all sources of energy: We are not tilted to one form or another. We are very much balanced when it comes to providing energy within the energy mix that we have got, but very much, also, committed to where the transition is and delivering on it.

“And this is why working with an Oil Sustainability Program allows us to find ways and means to continue to utilize our resources in a sustainable way that will enable us to make sure that we are taking advantage of our resources. Yet, we are also meeting our commitments to an energy transition that the world is morphing towards.”

FASTFACTS

• The Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives integrate environmental protection, energy transition and innovative sustainability programs to achieve a green future.

• Under the umbrella of the two initiatives, Saudi Arabia aims to leverage its expertise, champion scientific innovation, and share best practices with the world.

The program’s focus on three domains — development, sustainability, and innovation — places the Kingdom in a position to move quickly in its energy transition process.

In terms of innovation, the program has been very active in driving new technologies, either by improving the technology readiness level of these applications or scaling it when it is ready for application.

Fallatah added: “We are very active in understanding trends governing or driving the energy ecosystem as we are adamant about not letting go and finding every opportunity to help sustain oil, but also to keep that leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when it comes to that transition.

“We have the legacy of a number of years and we would like to maintain that leadership by contributing to that transition. How do we do it? We do it through development, working on sustainability, but also working on innovation.”

Saudi Arabia has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. The country has undertaken $1 billion in climate change initiatives as part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which seeks to establish a regional carbon capture and storage center, an early storm warning center, and cloud-seeding programs as part of its efforts to create a greener future.

Youngsters call for action on emissions. (AFP)

The Saudi Green Initiative includes plans to plant 450 million trees and rehabilitate 8 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, reducing 200 million tons of carbon emissions with additional initiatives to be announced in the years to come.

Saudi Arabia has launched and built several major renewable energy projects, taking advantage of its natural potential in solar and wind. It aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, with the remaining 50 percent coming from natural gas.

The Kingdom also aims to become a world leader in hydrogen power and is investing in nuclear energy.

Although achieving a net-zero economy within 30 to 40 years may sound daunting, dozens of renewable energy breakthroughs are on the horizon, with many now making their way onto the market, as firms make their own net-zero pledges and invest in clean energy technologies.

For the transition to remain technically and economically feasible and beneficial, policy initiatives must steer the global energy transition toward a sustainable energy system.

The LEAP Conference attendees watch a demonstration. (Supplied)

Sustainable transition strategies typically consist of three significant technological changes: Energy savings on the demand side, generation efficiency at the production level, and fossil fuel substitution by various renewable energy sources and low-carbon nuclear.

Large-scale renewable energy adoption includes measures to improve the efficiency of existing non-renewable sources, which still have a substantial cost-reduction and stabilization role.

Experts warn that failure to act on emissions and the energy transition would be catastrophic.

“There will be no jobs on a dead planet. If we want prosperity for our people, we need to ensure prosperity in a land that thrives,” Dr. Paul Toyne, Grimshaw SD practice leader and expert adviser on environmental and sustainability goals, told Arab News at LEAP23.

“We do know that climate change is one of the largest or biggest threats to our planet and to our livelihoods, but we also know that if we solve climate change, we don’t necessarily solve the other issues that happened. So once we have a climate crisis, we also have a biodiversity crisis.”

Although governments are looking into ways of transitioning from oil and gas to renewables, Toyne stresses that the process will take some time, even with the right planning and investment.

He said: “We need to make our cities resilient to climate change and recognize that it will get worse, and adapt to create resilience.

“If we tackle the climate change solution with technologies and we flip over to renewables very quickly and restore the equilibrium in terms of carbon pollution, how do we restore the other ecosystems that we need?

“All of these economies and sectors need to go through a self-correction, which needs to be driven by the right policies and governance and financing of regenerative sectors.

“This takes us into a space of the unknown, but as a society we have more tools at our disposal, digital tools and breakthroughs in science, to provide solutions.”

Putting the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050-60 requires a substantial increase in capital-intensive clean energy assets.

The four-day annual tech convention in Riyadh is in its second year. (Supplied)

Some believe this could hamper the energy transition process due to cost, but climate finance professionals such as Gerhard Mulder, CEO and co-founder of Climate Risk Services, believe this is not necessarily the case.

“There are upfront costs to a transition to a low-carbon economy, and numbers that are being thrown around in the trillions and, yes, in that sense it is very costly,” he told Arab News.

“However, if you look at electricity, for example, in more than half of the world, solar and wind are already more cost efficient than most fossil fuel-powered forms of generation.”

At a time when many countries face macroeconomic crises, due in part to the disruptions caused by the conflict in Ukraine, Mulder believes innovations will help stabilize energy, even in times of volatility. Indeed, by transitioning to low-carbon economies, “we’ll have more stable societies,” he said.

“The key word is building resilience and that means you are preparing yourself for an unstable future, preparing for unpredictable events, so that you can manage multiple scenarios,” he added.

Although the climate challenge at times feels insurmountable, Mulder claims he has never felt as optimistic about humanity’s response as he does today.

“When I first started working [in the climate field] many denied the science,” he said. “Today, nobody can. Many said that it’s a future problem, but the problem is here already. We have a finite amount of time, which is the bad news, but this is the decade we need to do it.

“There’s plenty of money available and plenty of technology available to invest in disruptive technologies, and we can already do so much with existing technologies by creating new markets so we can scale up the process.”


Logitech survey unveiled at LEAP23 reveals hybrid working creates an uneven playing field

Logitech survey unveiled at LEAP23 reveals hybrid working creates an uneven playing field
Updated 07 February 2023

Logitech survey unveiled at LEAP23 reveals hybrid working creates an uneven playing field

Logitech survey unveiled at LEAP23 reveals hybrid working creates an uneven playing field
  • 59 percent of those polled agreed their input would be valued more if they were physically attending a meeting
  • However, 52 percent of respondents said they would prefer a hybrid or fully remote work arrangement

RIYADH: Logitech on Monday announced the results of its hybrid meeting survey at LEAP 2023. 

The survey, polling more than 500 white-collar workers, examined the state of current working arrangements, the impacts of hybrid work on meetings, and the challenges that business leaders and employees face in this new way of working. 

As employees returned to physical office spaces, the report revealed that 52 percent of respondents would prefer to work either in a hybrid or fully remote work arrangement. 

“The Kingdom is placing great emphasis on digital transformation in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to unlock its vast economic potential. Furthermore, as companies prepare for the future of work, technology will be the game changer, closing the gap between traditional and hybrid workplaces and creating a smarter, more agile, and creative local workforce,” said Loubna Imenchal, head of enterprise business at Logitech, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Central Asia. 

The hybrid meeting survey revealed that 39 percent of respondents who have joined a hybrid meeting virtually felt that they had fewer opportunities to build rapport with other participants. Additionally, 59 percent agreed that their input would be valued more if they were attending the meeting physically instead of virtually, and 40 percent felt less included as compared to in-person meeting participants. 

While 73 percent of respondents agree that hybrid meetings would be more productive if all participants had an equal chance to speak and contribute, 61 percent of those who participate in hybrid meetings in-person shared that they tend to engage more with participants that are in the same room. 

Respondents said that technical issues are the most significant challenges with hybrid meetings, with connectivity issues (43 percent) and poor audio quality (40 percent) ranking amongst the top concerns. 

In addition, 34 percent of respondents also shared that having to repeat themselves due to participants not being able to hear them clearly also was an issue they experienced during hybrid meetings. 

Other common issues such as participants not paying attention (30 percent), poor video quality (29 percent), participants being late (33 percent) and getting talked over by other participants during meetings (29 percent) were also cited as challenges in hybrid meetings.

To improve on these issues, organizations in the Kingdom must ensure that employees have access to critical technology, including network connectivity and video conferencing devices. Video collaboration technology should be a part of organizations’ digitalization plans to be successful in the future of work.  

In fact, the survey revealed the critical role of video conferencing technology in solving the meeting equity problem. More than 7 in 10 respondents (62 percent) agreed that hybrid meetings are more engaging when video conferencing systems with high-quality audio and video output are used. 

Organizations should implement enterprise-grade tools and solutions to bridge the gap in hybrid meetings such as meeting room devices, personal collaboration devices such as headsets and webcams to ensure overall quality and experience of video meetings. 

In today’s increasingly hybrid-based work environment, there are several key aspects companies must consider to enable seamless collaboration, foster engagement, and place virtual meeting participants on equal footing with their counterparts in the conference room:

Equip: Provide teams with enterprise-level equipment such as in-room video conferencing systems, webcams, microphones, and earbuds. This enables organizations to build a consistent, reliable experience that is natively integrated with its ecosystem of choice. Video conferencing systems also provide remote participants with a full view of everyone in the office meeting room through multiple cameras with different perspectives, placing them in the best seat in the room and help them feel more included, leading to more engaging, collaborative meetings.

Simplify: With employees constantly switching between in-office and home work environments, creating an easy employee experience by ensuring that the home office closely resembles their office set-up will emerge as a top priority for organizations. Companies will have to identify pain points for both in-office and virtual meeting participants when setting up internal hybrid meeting systems, considering factors such as usability and complexity of equipment and meeting set-ups. 

Empower: Fostering meeting equity requires facilitators and organizers to take an active approach to empower and encourage engagement from virtual participants. They have to practice active facilitation, minimize visual and audio clutter, and minimize side conversations.

The mix of remote and in-person participants, especially in hybrid work arrangements, create unique challenges for companies wanting to run inclusive and participative meetings. Nevertheless, modern video conference technologies such as those from Logitech allow meeting organizers to make the world of work more equitable and productive.

 


Creative economy’s increasing importance evident in LEAP 2023 agenda

Creative economy’s increasing importance evident in LEAP 2023 agenda
Updated 07 February 2023

Creative economy’s increasing importance evident in LEAP 2023 agenda

Creative economy’s increasing importance evident in LEAP 2023 agenda
  • Second edition of tech conference is home to science and technology as much as it is to the arts and entertainment
  • First day’s sessions examined the crucial role creativity plays in expanding technology, AI and the economy

RIYADH: What is a creative economy? The term has become a buzzword in today’s world — one that places culture and imagination at the crux of economic and technological expansion.

British author John Howkins first coined the term in 2001 to describe the economic systems where value is reflective of imaginative qualities rather than the traditional resources of labor, land, and capital.

Howkins applied the term to cultural goods, arts, research and development, toys, and games. Observers such as Howkins believe that creativity is an intrinsic characteristic of 21st century economies — similar to how manufacturing defined economies of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The rising importance of the creative economy can be witnessed at this year’s LEAP conference, where a dedicated segment has been devised focusing on the intersection between creativity, the economy and technology.

The conference is home to science and technology as much as it is to arts and entertainment — demonstrating how technological advances in immersive and digital entertainment are influencing the sectors of art, fashion, architecture, and design influencing the ways human beings live and work.

Panel sessions regarding the “Arts at the Intersection of Culture and Digital,” “Preserving Arts and Culture with AI,” “Building Engaged Communities in the Age of Metaverse,” and “Content Creation and Creation Economy,” among others, look at the crucial role that creativity plays in expanding technology, AI, and the economy.

“As an artist, I find AI to be a tool that enables me to think more about the future and expand my artistic practice,” MaryLiz Bender, artist, technologist and creative director and co-founder of Cosmic Perspective, said during a panel on “The Future of Art — the Evolution of Humanity.”

She added: “I want to think about the future and where we will be in 10, 20, 30, 50, and even one hundred years from now, and that is where AI has helped me.

“We are at a point now where our interaction and collaboration with AI models is enhancing our creative output as artists,” said Bender.

Creative economy is also a term pivotal to Saudi Vision 2030 — one of the defining pillars of the country’s reform plan and social transformation agenda, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in 2016 to wean the Gulf nation off a reliance on oil and gas and develop a future-focused economy — one that is forward-thinking, creative and among the most advanced technologically in the world.

Creativity in all industries, states Vision 2030, is vital to the establishment of the agenda’s three primary objectives: “To build a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.”

Technology, as several sessions demonstrated on the first day of LEAP, is becoming a fundamental part of preserving culture and heritage and advancing artistic processes.

In a session on “Preserving Arts & Culture,” Rami Jawhar, program manager for Google Arts & Culture, explored the importance of cultural preservation using technologies like AI.

In places burdened by conflict, destitution and where languages and traditional cultures are threatened with extinction, Jawhar showed how through technology Google is striving to preserve cultural heritage — even if it is through the intangible realm of the metaverse.

Through diverse technologies, the memory of past cultures and traditions can be maintained and preserved — a practice vital as the human race powers into the so-called fourth industrial revolution.

 


Saudi Digital Cooperation Organization unveils 2030 road map

Saudi Digital Cooperation Organization unveils 2030 road map
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi Digital Cooperation Organization unveils 2030 road map

Saudi Digital Cooperation Organization unveils 2030 road map
  • ‘We can unlock the full potential of the global digital economy,’ says DCO secretary-general

RIYADH: The Digital Cooperation Organization called for global collaboration to bridge the technological divide as it announced its 2030 road map at its second annual general assembly in Riyadh.

The plan aims at an ambitious future in which the digital economy contributes 30 percent to the global gross domestic product, and creates 30 million jobs worldwide.

It is designed to promote common interest, advocate for advanced cooperation, build regulatory framework and business environments, and ensure the inclusive and trustworthy nature of the digital economy at local, regional, and global levels.

DCO Secretary-General Deemah Al-Yahya told Arab News: “The beauty of this road map is it’s very agile and very nimble.

“It looks at all the challenges that we are facing now in our member countries. It goes in depth into what the needs are, and what reforms we should change, and what initiatives we should run to achieve these targets.

HIGHLIGHT

The plan aims at an ambitious future in which the digital economy contributes 30 percent to the global gross domestic product, and creates 30 million jobs worldwide.

“We really believe that with the right cooperation between the governments, in the private sector and civil society, we will actually overachieve by 2030.”

The call to action mirrors the goals of the organization to create a space that promotes underrepresented groups, such as women and youth, and helps to affirm their value within the digital infrastructure.

In its first in-person meeting, the DCO brought together member nations from across the globe to discuss the current condition of digital economies and the roadblocks faced by countries in an effort to achieve growth.

Al-Yahya added: “By fostering and facilitating cooperation and expanding transformation across all sectors, we can unlock the full potential of the global digital economy.”

As governmental and industrial digital transformation accelerates as a result of the pandemic, a key challenge is to recognize the essential role of technologies in fostering sustainable growth across formal and informal economies.

Al-Yahya said:“[The pandemic] tested the resilience to digitally transform very quickly, which is a huge agenda. No country alone can transform quickly and harness this opportunity of digital economy without putting hands in hands together and sharing best practices.”

In other strategic announcements, the DCO established new organizational bylaws, including the approval of the Stride Association, which will work to empower micro, small, and medium enterprises between member states.

Al-Yahya explained that empowering MSMEs, which make up 90 percent of all businesses, is crucial for success and growth in a dynamic digital economy.

The organization also established a new observer committee, as well as a new executive committee with representatives from member countries including Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, and Oman, and with a representative from the Kingdom as the chairperson until 2030.

Recalling an anecdote to reveal the power of digital economies, Al-Yahya told Arab News: “I met a woman before in Taif, and she used to create goods from Taif flowers. She was a widow with six children and she didn’t have any sources of revenue but the products that she created from the roses.”

After coming up with an e-commerce solution, the woman started selling to 100 locations across the globe, and recruited 60 other women to work for her business.

Al-Yahya said that the digital economy would grow by enabling the underrepresented communities that make up the majority of our populations.

The DCO council also formally welcomed two new member states: Gambia and Ghana. The organization now represents 13 nations and serves around 600 million people, with a collective gross domestic product of more than $2 trillion.