Omanis to vote in first municipal election on Saturday

Updated 21 December 2012

Omanis to vote in first municipal election on Saturday

MUSCAT: Omanis vote in their first municipal election on Saturday, a modest opening apparently designed to stem discontent about graft and lack of jobs in what is normally one of the Arab world’s most peaceful corners.
Stability in the small Gulf oil producer and US ally is important because it sits opposite Iran on the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for almost a fifth of petroleum traded worldwide.
One of the oldest Arab states, Oman experienced unrest inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere early last year.
The government swiftly promised to create thousands of jobs, announced plans for municipal polls and granted the sultanate’s only elected body, the Shura Council, some legislative power.
According to government figures, Oman created more than 52,000 public sector jobs between January and October this year, as well as at least 22,000 in the private sector.
The Shura Council has been elected regularly since 1991 by voters. Universal suffrage was adopted in 2003.
Hundreds of people were arrested in protests in 2011, when two people died and more than 100 were wounded in clashes with security forces. Most of those detained were later pardoned.
After last year’s protests, Sultan Qaboos decreed that at least seven portfolios in his 28-strong Cabinet must be held by Shura Council members. Nine serve in the present Cabinet.
The sultan’s constitutional amendment also gave the council the right to approve or reject draft laws.


Saudi Arabia signs AI agreements with IBM, Alibaba and Huawei

Updated 34 min 58 sec ago

Saudi Arabia signs AI agreements with IBM, Alibaba and Huawei

  • Deal with Alibaba cloud will 'help Saudi Arabia’s journey to develop world-class smart cities'

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) signed three agreements with IBM, Alibaba and Huawei on Thursday.

The memorandums of understanding came on the second day of the  Global AI Summit being held in the Kingdom.

The deal with Alibaba Cloud is designed to “empower Saudi cities with intelligence-driven smart city solutions,” Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The partnership will support Saudi Arabia’s journey to develop world-class smart cities.

SDAIA and Alibaba Cloud will work together to develop digital and AI solutions in safety and security, mobility, urban planning, energy, education, health, among others.

“Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 has clear goals to transform KSA cities into smart ones by unlocking the value of city data as a national asset to realize Vision 2030 aspirations,” SDAIA president Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghandi, said.

“Our journey to creating smart cities that rank among the smartest in the world is already well underway with Riyadh City. 

This partnership with Alibaba Cloud will support the acceleration of the transformation of our cities, through enabling intelligence-driven technologies and AI techniques that will fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life to our citizens.”

Phillip Liu, General Manager of Middle East and Africa, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, said: “We are proud to bring Alibaba Cloud’s proven cloud and AI products as well as our global experiences and to combine these with the expertise from SDAIA.”