How a Saudi consultancy is helping businesses remain competitive in the age of AI

How a Saudi consultancy is helping businesses remain competitive in the age of AI
Intelligent robots are expected to soon participate in meetings. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 08 June 2024
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How a Saudi consultancy is helping businesses remain competitive in the age of AI

How a Saudi consultancy is helping businesses remain competitive in the age of AI
  • Working with top executives, Foresighted aims to enhance understanding of AI’s advantages and limitations
  • CEO Mohammed Alqarni says business chiefs should experiment with AI or risk falling behind their more nimble rivals

RIYADH: Unless company executives adopt artificial intelligence technologies now, they will soon find themselves outmoded and driven out of business by their competitors, a Saudi AI consultant has warned.

Mohammed Alqarni, an academic, AI-for-business consultant, and CEO of the Saudi AI consultancy firm Foresighted, believes it is important for businesses to begin experimenting with AI right away, otherwise they will quickly fall behind their more nimble rivals.

“AI will not replace your job — someone using AI will replace your job,” Alqarni told Arab News.

Working with top executives, Foresighted aims to enhance understanding of AI’s advantages and limitations, propel the development of innovative business models, and integrate AI technologies into business plans.

“One of the main philosophies that we have is: No one understands the business more than the business people themselves,” Alqarni said. “We teach them what AI can do and what AI can’t do because AI can’t do everything.”

Alqarni is developing a “generative AI organizational transformation framework,” which will consider key impact areas of AI, including the impact of automation on various jobs — including top managerial positions.

“A very interesting insight we found was that the higher the skill needed, the more AI impact will have,” said Alqarni. 

“Initial analysis revealed that if you are in a managerial position, AI will impact your job more, and this makes a lot of sense, because your main tasks are reviewing documents, and doing strategic level work, and that is heavily data-driven, so AI will help you a lot.

“The lower you go, to the more operational tasks, the impact of AI reduces, because it is usually manual work.”

For many in the business world, AI is still just a trendy buzzword that is not fully understood. Alqarni believes bosses cannot afford to be complacent about the tectonic shifts already underway.




For Mohammed Alqarni, CEO of the Saudi AI consultancy firm Foresighted, the sooner business executives learn or get themselves familiar with AI, the better for their careers and businesses. (Shutterstock)

Asked about the possible repercussions that executives and companies will face if they fail to utilize AI, Alqarni is unequivocal: “They will be out of business.” 

He added: “As I said, AI is no longer an option. It’s your only defense against creative destruction. If you do not change, someone else will force you to change or you will be out of business. The sooner you start, the better you are.”

To avoid falling behind, Alqarni says business leaders should start experimenting with AI right away and encourage their employees to start utilizing it in their work. “I am not saying deploy AI today,” he said. “All I’m asking is, start experimenting today.”

One of the biggest challenges executives cite for avoiding AI uptake is that they are “too busy” and lack the time to experiment. However, Alqarni says business chiefs “need to create a culture of innovation, a culture of experimentation in order to utilize AI in the best way.” 




AI consultant Mohammed Alqarni says the transition could be painful, but believes it is wrong to bury one’s head in the sand. (Shutterstock image)

Some are likely putting off AI adoption, fearful that it could make many human jobs obsolete. Alqarni acknowledges the transition could be painful, but believes it is wrong to bury one’s head in the sand.

“The way I think about it, when it comes to AI and unemployment — because this is the ultimate fear at a government level — AI will definitely eliminate jobs, but it will also change some jobs, and at the same time it will create more jobs,” he said. 

“The question is not about whether AI will eliminate jobs or not. It’s about how many jobs will be created and how many jobs will be eliminated and how many jobs will be changed.”

Drawing parallels with the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, when large, steam-driven factories destroyed many traditional cottage industries and artisan crafts, Alqarni said the job market eventually “balanced out” as more roles were created.

Likewise, he believes the employment landscape will adjust to the rhythms of the AI age. “My only concern is the speed at which this has happened,” said Alqarni. “I think we will feel it stronger with AI because the development is much faster.

“For you to build a factory, it will take years. To build a model AI agent that could replace human beings could happen in a couple of days. 

“It is not black and white when it comes to job creation and job elimination, but it is a scale. There will be jobs that are lost, transitioned, changed, as well as job creation.”




The best way to guarantee job security is through re-skilling the workforce, says AI consultant Mohammed Alqarni. (AP/File photo)

For Alqarni, the best way to guarantee job security during this turbulent transition, therefore, is through re-skilling the workforce.

“People that are losing their job will need to be re-skilled, given relevant skills that are needed in the market,” he said. “For jobs that are being changed, it is a matter of up-skilling.”

Alqarni believes Saudi Arabia should prepare young workers for a rapidly changing job market.

“Vision 2030 programs tasked with such planning should consider AI’s impact on jobs in the near and far future,” he said.

“This would ensure that job creation matches the required demand. This is a crucial consideration that is not being considered enough.” 
 

 


Madinah participates in Quality of Life and UN Habitat programs

Madinah participates in Quality of Life and UN Habitat programs
Updated 12 July 2024
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Madinah participates in Quality of Life and UN Habitat programs

Madinah participates in Quality of Life and UN Habitat programs
  • The event was held on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
  • Madinah achieved the gold level in the SDG Cities program, awarded by UN-Habitat

NEW YORK: The Madinah Region Development Authority took part in the “Quality of Life Initiative to Accelerate the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals”, an event organized by the Quality of Life Program — one of the initiatives under Saudi Vision 2030 — and the UN Human Settlements Program.
The event was held on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at UN headquarters in New York from July 8 to 18.
Participants included Nava Guerrero, the mayor of Queretaro, Mexico, and Abdulrahman bin Hassan Ibrahim, executive director of data and innovation at the MDRA.
He drew attention to Madinah’s efforts in localizing sustainable development goals and its selection as one of the first five cities in the global Quality of Life Index initiative. He also highlighted Saudi authorities’ efforts to localize sustainable development goals.
Madinah achieved the gold level in the SDG Cities program, awarded by UN-Habitat. This makes Madinah the first Saudi city, the first in the Arab world, and the third globally to receive this recognition.
UN-Habitat is a program that works for a better urban future by contributing to the development of socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements and ensuring adequate shelter for all.


Literacy campaign in Al-Baha reaches more than 1,400 students

Literacy campaign in Al-Baha reaches more than 1,400 students
Updated 12 July 2024
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Literacy campaign in Al-Baha reaches more than 1,400 students

Literacy campaign in Al-Baha reaches more than 1,400 students
  • The campaign operates through 32 educational centers across the region
  • The program aims to reach citizens in their local communities

RIYADH: A comprehensive literacy campaign in the Al-Baha region is currently serving 1,410 adult learners, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The initiative, dubbed “Al-Baha Without Illiteracy,” is a joint effort between the General Administration of Education in Al-Baha’s Al-Aqiq sector and several government agencies.
The campaign operates through 32 educational centers across the region, with 12 centers for men enrolling 390 students and 20 centers for women accommodating 1,057 learners. These centers are staffed by qualified educational and administrative personnel, supported by 27 additional participants.
Dr. Abdulkhaleq Al-Zahrani, director general of education in Al-Baha, highlighted the campaign’s alignment with national priorities. “Literacy promotion is a civilized approach championed by our leadership,” he said. “It is part of our commitment to lifelong learning and preparing an educated generation capable of serving their country and community.”
The program aims to reach citizens in their local communities, offering basic literacy skills alongside religious, cultural, social, and health education. It also emphasizes strengthening national identity and civic engagement.
Currently in its summer phase, the campaign has seen enthusiastic participation from adult learners eager to acquire reading and writing skills. The curriculum extends beyond basic literacy to include enhancing national belonging sense, digital literacy, health awareness, environmental education, and learning to use electronic systems and applications.
According to SPA, the initiative brings together resources from government agencies and non-profit organizations to deliver a holistic educational experience. It aims to develop life skills and achieve educational and cultural goals, ensuring quality education for all beneficiaries. Its objectives also include reducing illiteracy rates, fostering patriotism and love for the country and its leadership, and raising awareness on various religious, societal, health, economic, environmental, and cultural issues.


Chemical weapons watchdog convenes amidst global tensions

Chemical weapons watchdog convenes amidst global tensions
Updated 12 July 2024
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Chemical weapons watchdog convenes amidst global tensions

Chemical weapons watchdog convenes amidst global tensions

RIYADH: The 106th session of the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has commenced in The Hague.

Leading the Saudi delegation to the four-day conclave, running from July 9-12, is Ambassador Ziyad bin Maashi Al-Attiyah, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the OPCW.

In his address to the council, Al-Attiyah reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s unwavering commitment to bolstering international cooperation in the prohibition and non-proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction, emphasizing the pivotal role of the OPCW in safeguarding international peace and security.

“The use of chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons, anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances, is abhorrent and a flagrant violation of both the Chemical Weapons Convention and established principles of international law,” Al-Attiyah declared, echoing the Kingdom’s long-standing position on the issue.

Al-Attiyah stated that the Saudi delegation welcomes the OPCW spokesperson’s statement regarding the situation in Ukraine, issued on May 7. The ambassador that crimes by Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip have been continuing in a systematic manner for nine months since the outbreak of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Al-Attiyah restated condemnation of these crimes, and emphasized the importance of implementing recent UN Security Council resolutions regarding the proposal for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The Saudi ambassador reiterated the Kingdom’s endorsement of Palestine’s request to the OPCW’s technical secretariat for close monitoring of the situation in the occupied territories. He expressed the Saudi delegation’s appreciation for the director general’s response to the appeal, stressing the Kingdom’s confidence in the secretariat’s ability to fulfill its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, particularly in responding to any developments in the Palestinian territories.

Al-Attiyah also lauded the recent decisions by Norway, Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, and Armenia to recognize Palestine as a state, urging the international community to follow suit and recognize Palestine within its 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, so that the Palestinian people can secure their legitimate rights and to realize a comprehensive, just, and enduring peace.

On the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons program, the Saudi envoy welcomed the 27th round of consultations between the OPCW and Damascus. He emphasized the importance of maintaining a renewed spirit of cooperation within a technical framework to resolve all outstanding issues.

“This cooperation will open up new horizons and pathways to resolve all pending issues,” Al-Attiyah stated, urging all parties involved to work together constructively.

The session also saw Saudi Arabia congratulate Algeria on the designation of its National Institute of Forensic Evidence and Criminology as a new OPCW laboratory, marking a significant milestone for the African continent in the field of chemical analysis.

As the global community grapples with emerging threats, including the implications of artificial intelligence in chemical warfare, Al-Attiyah highlighted the need to leverage all existing mechanisms within the OPCW to address these challenges effectively. He welcomed the upcoming conference to be held jointly by Morocco and the OPCW technical secretariat in Rabat. The conference will focus on the role of AI in enhancing the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.


Acclaimed Palestinian oudists Le Trio Joubran perform at Ithra

Acclaimed Palestinian oudists Le Trio Joubran perform at Ithra
Updated 12 July 2024
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Acclaimed Palestinian oudists Le Trio Joubran perform at Ithra

Acclaimed Palestinian oudists Le Trio Joubran perform at Ithra
  • The majority of the show — like the majority of Le Trio Joubran’s albums — consisted of instrumental pieces

DHAHRAN: On Thursday night, the award-winning Palestinian oud masters — and brothers — Le Trio Joubran, performed at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Ithra, on the first of their two-night run in Dhahran.

Unfortunately, Samir — the eldest brother, who formed the band nearly two decades ago — was unable to join his siblings Wissam and Adnan on stage. But his space in the center of the trio was left untouched, as a visual representation of his presence.

“As you can see, there is a gaping void on stage tonight. Our brother Samir was unable to be with us — despite the greatest efforts from the attentive Ithra and Aramco teams, who are trying until this very moment to get him to join us, so thank you,” Adnan, the youngest of the trio, told the crowd, which almost filled the venue.

“It has now become our responsibility and burden — my brother Wissam and me — to do our best to give you the show you deserve. Usually our brother Samir speaks, but tonight, I’ll ask you to forgive our shortcomings and we hope to give you a good show,” he continued. And they delivered.

The majority of the show — like the majority of Le Trio Joubran’s albums — consisted of instrumental pieces, while a handful were accompanied by Arabic poetry recitals. Joining Wissam and Adnan on stage were percussionist Ruven Ruppik and cellist Valentin Mussou.

Le Trio Joubran bill themselves as the first ever trio of oudists. Hailing from Nazareth, they now divide their time between Palestine and France. Their music often reflects themes of Palestinian identity, as well as the broader human experience. Over the last few decades, their music has been featured in the soundtracks of several films and documentaries, including “The Last Flight” (2009), “Miral” (2010), “Five Broken Cameras” (2011) and “The Messenger of God” (2015).

In 2019, they collaborated with the hugely successful British pop-rock band Coldplay on a song called “Arabesque.”

At the end of their Ithra performance, Adnan spoke again, promising the crowd that they would come back again next year — with Samir. The crowd cheered enthusiastically.

Wissam and Adnan perform again at Ithra on Friday night, July 12.


KSrelief continues health aid work around the globe

KSrelief continues health aid work around the globe
Updated 12 July 2024
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KSrelief continues health aid work around the globe

KSrelief continues health aid work around the globe
  • KSrelief delivered 2,000 healthcare kits to earthquake-affected Syrian refugees
  • In Taiz governorate, Yemen, the agency, through the Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center Project, has helped 406 people who lost limbs

RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief continues to carry out health aid work around the world, delivering aid packages and performing medical procedures.

In Taiz governorate, Yemen, the agency, through the Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center Project, has helped 406 people who lost limbs, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.
The project delivered 1,475 services in total, with 67 percent provided to males and 33 percent to females.

Among the beneficiaries, 11 percent were displaced people, and 89 percent were residents.

The services included the delivery, measurement and maintenance of prosthetic limbs, as well as physical therapy and specialist consultations.

The assistance is part of the ongoing humanitarian projects provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by KSrelief, to enhance the health sector’s capabilities and alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering.

In Turkiye, the Saudi Sama’a Volunteer Program for Cochlear Implantation and Hearing Rehabilitation has completed work for earthquake victims in Reyhanli.

Also in Turkiye, KSrelief delivered 2,000 healthcare kits to earthquake-affected Syrian refugees in the Islahiye camp in Gaziantep, near Reyhanli. The program ran from June 30 to July 7.

During this time, the volunteer medical team from KSrelief performed cochlear implants to restore hearing and provided auditory rehabilitation therapy sessions for 84 children.

Manwhile, at the dialysis center in Banadir Hospital, Mogadishu, Somalia, 348 patients were treated in May, 163 of whom received 1,051 scheduled hemodialysis sessions and 12 emergency sessions. Outpatient clinic services and medical examinations were provided to 177 patients.

Of the patients, 62 percent were male, 38 percent were female, 2 percent were displaced people and 98 percent were residents.