Saudi Arabia on the road to cloud-powered digital transformation

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Saudi Arabia on the road to cloud-powered digital transformation

Saudi Arabia on the road to cloud-powered digital transformation
This relentless pursuit of digitalization lies at the core of Saudi Vision 2030. (Shutterstock)
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An ambitious vision is taking shape in Saudi Arabia that envisages a future where its people, especially the younger generation, can live and thrive in a seamlessly connected digital landscape.

It is a world where transactions seamlessly flow, supported by layers of impenetrable security, and an ecosystem of service providers stands ready to fulfill every need, from leisure and entertainment to education.

This relentless pursuit of digitalization lies at the core of Saudi Vision 2030 — a monumental $3.3 trillion blueprint aimed at propelling the nation beyond its historical reliance on oil and revolutionizing society along the way. However, such ambition needs powerful and adaptable technology to deliver its goals.

Today, Saudi Arabia stands at a crossroads, armed with an opportunity it cannot overlook — enter cloud computing. By adopting cloud-based operating models, the Kingdom can set new standards for cost competitiveness and innovation, facilitating the realization of its Vision 2030 goals with fiscal prudence and adherence to schedules.

KSA’s cloud-powered transformation

Historically, Saudi Arabia embarked on its cloud journey a bit later than its regional counterparts. But what it lacked in timing, it made up for with strategic vision and implementation. The last five years have seen a concerted effort to position the country as a cloud powerhouse. Key milestones in this journey include launching the Saudi Cloud Strategy in 2019, establishing the Cloud Computing Special Economic Zone in April 2023, and introducing progressive policies such as the Cloud First Policy and Cloud Cybersecurity Controls. These initiatives signal the Kingdom’s commitment to cloud computing and lay the groundwork for widespread adoption.

In parallel, the government has been pouring resources into building the necessary infrastructure. A testament to this is the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s 2021 initiative, where an $18 billion investment was announced to establish a vast network of data centers across the Kingdom. This bold move has garnered global attention, drawing investments from tech giants, with Google Cloud Region inaugurating its Saudi-based operations in November 2023. The strategic positioning of the Kingdom is more than just establishing infrastructure; it is about setting global benchmarks for cloud operating models. The concept of the Cloud Continuum emerges as a game-changer in this context. It is an ecosystem that blends various technologies like AI, Big Data, analytics, and the Internet of Things, all unified under the umbrella of cloud computing. This isn’t just about technological integration; it is about building a digital core that powers a green, sustainable, and innovative future.

Leveraging cloud operating models

For organizations in Saudi Arabia, adapting to this new digital landscape involves a strategic approach, as outlined in Accenture’s research paper titled “The Race to the Cloud.” This involves a five-pronged strategy:

The full power of cloud: Organizations must leverage cloud technology as a catalyst for complete enterprise transformation, aligning it with emerging business strategies.

Strategic cloud enablement: It is essential to embrace the cloud as a fundamental enabler, selecting the right mix of capabilities and services.

People and process transformation: Success in the cloud is intertwined with transforming organizational culture and workflows.

Focus on data and AI: Investments in the cloud should be complemented with a focus on data and AI, using insights to drive innovation.

Cloud economics mastery: Shifting the narrative from cloud cost to cloud value, with an emphasis on transparency and oversight.

Industries across the Kingdom are already adopting these strategies, reaping significant benefits. These cloud operating models are comparable to muscles that require constant development and nurturing. With robust government and corporate sector support, Saudi Arabia is well-equipped to flex its cloud muscle, creating a digitally empowered society that is efficient, innovative, and sustainable.

• Omar Boulos is Accenture’s market unit lead in the Middle East.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Saudi embassy, Pakistan join hands to provide Ramadan rations for the needy

Saudi embassy, Pakistan join hands to provide Ramadan rations for the needy
Updated 31 min 43 sec ago
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Saudi embassy, Pakistan join hands to provide Ramadan rations for the needy

Saudi embassy, Pakistan join hands to provide Ramadan rations for the needy
  • Saudi embassy to take responsibility for the care of 100 orphans from Pakistan Sweet Homes, says state media 
  • Saudi relief agencies have previously collaborated with Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal to provide help the needy

ISLAMABAD: The Saudi embassy and Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal (PBM) this week agreed to join hands to distribute ration bags among the needy during Ramadan and to care for 100 orphans across the country, state-run media reported. 

The agreement took place on Friday when PBM Managing Director Syed Tariq Mahmood Al-Hassan visited the Saudi embassy in Islamabad at the invitation of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki. 

Saudi relief agencies and other social organizations from the Kingdom have previously collaborated with the PBM on numerous projects aimed at helping the needy and vulnerable individuals. 

“The Saudi Embassy on Friday agreed to collaborate with Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) to distribute ration bags during Ramadan ul Mubarak and take responsibility for the care of 100 orphans supported by Pakistan Sweet Home,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

It added that Malki assured Hassan of further cooperation from the embassy in additional social projects in Pakistan. 

Hassan thanked Malki and recognized Saudi Arabia’s focus on global social sectors. 

“He highlighted the enduring support between the two brotherly nations during challenging periods, emphasizing Saudi Arabia’s continual prioritization of Pakistan’s economy and social well-being,” the APP said. 


Karachi hunt for victory at home ground against table-toppers Multan today

Karachi hunt for victory at home ground against table-toppers Multan today
Updated 03 March 2024
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Karachi hunt for victory at home ground against table-toppers Multan today

Karachi hunt for victory at home ground against table-toppers Multan today
  • Karachi have lost their last two matches on the trot against Islamabad, Quetta
  • Multan Sultans have won five out of their six matches in this year’s Pakistan Super League

ISLAMABAD: After suffering two back-to-back defeats at the hands of Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United, Karachi Kings will be eyeing redemption by beating table-toppers Multan Sultans on their home turf today, Sunday. 

Skipper Shan Masood’s side have slipped to the fifth spot in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) points table after suffering three losses and only grabbing two wins from their five matches. 

The Sultans, on the other hand, have been spectacular this PSL. Rizwan’s side has fumbled only once, losing one match while winning five others, and look poised to qualify for the playoffs of this year’s PSL. 

“Bowling under the Karachi sun,” the Sultans wrote on social media platform X, uploading pictures of their players practicing at the National Bank Arena stadium on Saturday. 

The Kings will hope James Vince, Tim Seifert and skipper Masood finally step up while former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik also hits his form to guide them to a win. The Kings’ spin trio of Tabraiz Shamsi, Mohammad Nawaz and Malik need to provide more support to the bowling line-up. 

Meanwhile, the Sultans are a formidable side altogether. Spinner Usama Mir and bowler Mohammad Ali have fared impressively throughout the tournament. Skipper Rizwan has pitched in and so have Usman Khan, Tayyab Tahir and David Willey. 

The last time the two sides locked horns on Feb. 18, the Sultans cruised to a 55-run win over the Kings. Will history repeat itself or will the Kings pull off an upset to make the tournament more competitive?

The match begins at 7:00 p.m. local time. 

Squads (probably playing XIs)

Multan Sultans: Reeza Hendricks, Mohammad Rizwan (c/wk), Dawid Malan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Tayyab Tahir, David Willey, Chris Jordan, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani

Karachi Kings: Shan Masood (c), James Vince, Mohammad Akhlaq, Shoaib Malik, Irfan Niazi, Mohammad Nawaz, Daniel Sams, Hasan Ali, Blessing Muzarabani, Mir Hamza, Tabraiz Shamsi 
 


Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest

Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest
Updated 03 March 2024
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Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest

Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest
  • Simon Coveney appeared on the “Frankly Speaking” show, the full episode of which will be released on Sunday
  • Described Gulf region as a “really good example of how international trade can create wealth and employment”

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia offers an “extraordinary opportunity” for Irish firms looking to invest in everything from technology to tourism, according to Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

Appearing on the Arab News current-affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” Simon Coveney singled out the Gulf region as a “really good example of how international trade can create wealth, can create employment, and also can ultimately provide stability and an absence of conflict.”

As part of a Gulf tour, Coveney recently paid a visit to Riyadh to meet with Majid Al-Qasabi, Saudi Arabia’s minister of commerce, and other high-level officials.

“The main topic of discussion was Saudi ambition, in terms of the vision for 2030, the extraordinary scale of project development that is currently happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

“Whether that’s on the Red Sea coast in terms of tourism, or whether it’s the scale of development in terms of some of the other projects around Saudi Arabia, and the opportunity for international business that comes from that.

“Whether it’s construction, whether it’s technology, whether it’s energy, whether it’s transport and tourism, whether it’s medtech and the pharmaceutical industry.”

Former Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney being interviewed by Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen. (AN photo)

He added: “All of these sectors are very, very strong in Ireland. We have a lot of capacity. Ireland has become a very globalized economy, and some of the largest companies in the world, in many of these sectors already have a very large international presence in Ireland.”

The primary focus of Coveney’s visit to the region was the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which took place between Feb. 26 and 29 in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

There, trade ministers discussed a new dispute-resolution mechanism designed to even the playing field between larger and smaller economies.

Ireland is keen to see reforms to ensure that the WTO is able to meet the challenges of the modern economy, including a boost for digital trade — known as e-commerce — and stronger action on climate change — issues the body has been slow to adapt to.

“Ireland, like every small country, wants to see the WTO working, because the WTO and its dispute-resolution mechanisms and support programs is in many ways the great leveler to allow small countries to trade under agreed rules with larger countries and larger blocs of countries,” he said.

“Ireland is a big believer in the WTO as a basis for international trade. But like many others, we’ve been somewhat frustrated at the inability of the WTO membership to get agreement on certain things.

“We’re trying to get agreement on a functioning dispute-resolution mechanism so that small and large countries can operate under the same rules. And if they don’t, there’s a mechanism that countries can refer to, to get a resolution to breakdowns.”

However, Coveney said the prevailing climate of protectionism meant that very few breakthroughs were made in the talks, adding that the apparent “retreat” of globalization provides little room for positivity.


Pakistan starts campaign to vaccinate 7.1 million children against polio in country’s northwest

Pakistan starts campaign to vaccinate 7.1 million children against polio in country’s northwest
Updated 03 March 2024
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Pakistan starts campaign to vaccinate 7.1 million children against polio in country’s northwest

Pakistan starts campaign to vaccinate 7.1 million children against polio in country’s northwest
  • Five-day campaign to be held across 33 districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • Polio volunteers in country’s northwest have often suffered attacks by militants

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health authorities on Sunday kicked off the second phase of a five-day anti-polio campaign to vaccinate children up to the age of five in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, state-run media reported.

Pakistan initiated the anti-polio campaign countrywide last Monday but in KP, the second phase of the five-day campaign will be carried out in 33 districts of the province from today, Sunday. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“The second phase of the five-day anti-polio campaign begins in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today,” Radio Pakistan said. “During the second phase, more than seven point one million children up to five years of age will be administered anti-polio vaccine drops.”

Pakistan last week launched its second nationwide campaign against the disease. The first campaign this year was held from January 8-14 in which over 43 million children were vaccinated, according to official figures.

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern KP province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population.

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 


A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash

A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash
Updated 03 March 2024
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A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash

A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash
  • Tycoons from around the world, heads of state and celebrities arrived in Jamnagar for Anant Ambani’s big fat wedding
  • Ambani family has a tradition of throwing lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying family’s political and economic clout

NEW DELHI: What happens when the son of Asia’s richest man is about to get married?
His father throws a three-day prenuptial bash four months before the actual ceremony.
Tycoons from around the world, heads of state, as well as Hollywood and Bollywood stars descended on the small western Indian city of Jamnagar on Friday where billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani is kickstarting a big fat wedding celebration for his youngest son.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg (L) with his wife Priscilla Chan attending a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar. (AFP)


The nearly 1,200-person guest list includes pop superstar Rihanna, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sunder Picha, Ivanka Trump and Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan.
All eyes are on Anant Ambani, 28, and his long-time girlfriend Radhika Merchant, 29, who will tie the knot in July. Radhika is the daughter of Viren Merchant, CEO of Encore Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., and entrepreneur Shaila Merchant.
Such festivities keep up with the Ambani family’s tradition of lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying the Indian billionaire’s economic and political clout.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Ivanka Trump (2R), daughter of US' former president Donald Trump with husband Jared Kushner (L), a White House adviser under Trump attending a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani (R), for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar. (AFP)


Here is everything you need to know about the family and the prenuptial bash that captivated the country.
WHO IS MUKESH AMBANI?
Mukesh Ambani, 66, is currently the world’s 10th richest man with a net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes. He is also the richest person in Asia.
His Reliance Industries is a massive conglomerate, reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests ranging from petrochemicals, and oil and gas to telecoms and retail.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows director at Reliance's new energy business and Reliance Foundation Anant Ambani (R), son of billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, with his fiancée Radhika Merchant addressing guests during their three-day pre-wedding celebration in Jamnagar. (AFP)


Under Ambani’s leadership, Reliance — founded by his father in 1966 — sparked a telecom price war with the launch of the 4G phone and broadband service Jio in 2016. Today, it has more than 420 million subscribers and offers 5G services. Earlier this week, Disney struck an $8.5bn deal to merge its India business with Ambani’s Reliance Industries, forming a new media giant.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story private apartment building, named Antila, worth $1 billion in Mumbai. It has three helipads, a 160-car garage, a private movie theater, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.
Ambani’s critics say his company has flourished mainly because of political connections during the Congress governments in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014. They say “crony capitalism” in India has helped certain corporations, such as Ambani’s, thrive.
Mukesh Ambani, 66, has started passing the torch to his two sons and daughter. The oldest son, Akash Ambani, is now chairperson of Reliance Jio; his daughter, Isha, oversees retail; and the youngest, Anant — who will wed in July— has been inducted into the new energy business.
DO YOU WANT A PARTY LIKE NO OTHER? THE AMBANIS HAVE YOUR BACK
Extravagant parties are the Ambanis’ specialty.
In 2018, when his daughter married, Ambani made the headlines because of the grand celebrations, with pop sensation Beyoncé performing at the pre-wedding festivities. At the time, Former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.

Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani (R) with wife Nita Ambani attends the wedding reception his daughter Isha Ambani (2nd R) who wedded Anand Piramal (R), son of Indian billionaire industrialist Ajay Piramal, in Mumbai on December 14, 2018. (AFP)


Later that year, the happy couple, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal, officially celebrated their engagement overlooking the picturesque Lake Como in Italy. In December 2018, they got married at the Ambani residence in Mumbai.
WHAT IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT THE PRE-WEDDING SHINDIG?
The three-day pre-wedding bash offers a glimpse of the opulence expected at the July wedding.
The Ambanis are celebrating it at the family’s hometown of Jamnagar — a city of around 600,000 in a near-desert part of Gujarat state — where they also have the business’ main oil refinery.
Guests will don jungle-themed outfits to visit an animal rescue center run by the groom-to-be, Anant. Known as “Vantara,” or “Star Of The Forest,” the 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) center houses abused, injured and endangered animals, particularly elephants.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan (C) with his wife and actress Kareena Kapoor Khan (2L) upon their arrival at Jamnagar Airport in Jamnagar, to attend a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant. (AFP)


The invitation also says guests will start each day with a new dress code, with mood boards and an army of hair stylists, makeup artists and Indian wear designers at their hotel to help them prepare.
There will also be traditional Hindu ceremonies in a temple complex.
The guests, many arriving by chartered planes, will be served 500 dishes created by around 100 chefs.
The guest list also includes Mohammed Bin Jassim al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar; Stephen Harper, former Canadian prime minister; and Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
On Wednesday, the Ambani family organized a community food service for 51,000 people living in nearby villages.