Kingdom served 54 million Haj pilgrims over 25 years: GaStat

Time : August 08, 2018

RIYADH — According to official statistics released by the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat), the total number of Haj pilgrims who were served by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the last 25 years reached 53,928,358.

The lowest number of pilgrims was registered in the Haj season of 1995 (1415H) when the number of pilgrims was 1,781,370. On the other hand, the highest number of pilgrims was registered was in 1433H when 3,161,573 performed the annual pilgrimage.

During the last 10 years, the number of pilgrims was 23,834,151.

GaStat spokesman Taiseer Al-Mofarrej said counting the numbers of pilgrims each year has been one of the important tasks performed by the authority. The counting of pilgrims started in 1390H in order to obtain accurate information to help all governmental entities to plan and develop the services provided to the pilgrims. However, the task has been performed for many years, with a lot of developments in the methods of counting and enumeration so that they can be applied in an accurate, comprehensive, and professional way.

Al-Mofarrej said the Haj statistics program helps plan the necessary services for pilgrims, whether social, health, security, food or transportation. It is done by using a time series of accurate data on the numbers of pilgrims, the estimates of manpower needed to serve the pilgrims and to maintain their safety and comfort during the Haj season of each year. The data and numbers of pilgrims are used by the entities concerned in studies to prepare facilities in Makkah and the holy site. In addition, it provides accurate information and data on Haj for researchers, students, beneficiaries and those interested in this field.

The data is also used for the evaluation of activities and events conducted by the entities concerned with serving the pilgrims, as well as to identify ways of arrival of domestic pilgrims and the pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom.

The GaStat spokesman revealed the statistics on services provided by various government agencies to pilgrims would be announced periodically from the first of Dhul Hijjah. The authority will release the final and official number of pilgrims this year on Dhul Hijjah 9, through a Haj statistics bulletin in detail including the number of internal pilgrims, the number of pilgrims from abroad, pilgrims by sex, nationality and destination, number of vehicles used for transporting pilgrims as well as their types, and other detailed data.

During the past 25 years, the number of pilgrims exceeded 3 million pilgrims only once, while their number exceeded 2 million pilgrims 12 times. On the other hand, during two seasons, their number fell below 2 million, with the lowest number of pilgrims recorded in 1415H (1995 AD).

This article was first published in  Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Arabia renews welcome to Qataris at Hajj, despite Doha registration block

August 07, 2018

Benten reaffirmed that the kingdom will ensure that Qatari pilgrims can still register their details and finish any paperwork at the airport in Jeddah. (Shutterstock)

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday renewed its welcome to Qatari citizens who wish to perform Hajj this year, despite Qatari authorities blocking websites created by the Hajj ministry for registration.

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Minister Muhammad Saleh Benten reaffirmed on Tuesday that the kingdom welcomes any Qatari pilgrims who want to perform Hajj this year.

Benten added that the kingdom will ensure Qatari pilgrims are able to perform Hajj easily, despite the Qatari government blocking the websites created specifically to facilitate the process for Qatari pilgrims.

Benten reaffirmed that the kingdom will ensure that Qatari pilgrims can still register their details and finish any paperwork at the airport in Jeddah, and any Qataris living outside of Qatar can access the portal to register their details through the ministry website.

This article was first published in  Alarabiya

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New Force on Saudi Tech Scene Emerges as Women Pack the Hall at First Record-Breaking Hajj Hackathon

Time : August 05, 2018

Presence of female developers, programmers and computer aficionados from the Kingdom, the GCC and the rest of the world is lauded

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, August 3 (CIC) – Female computer developers, programmers and proud tech heads from Saudi Arabia, the GCC and across the world, staked out a presence that was both noticeable and notable among thousands of tech acolytes at the first Hajj Hackathon, held this week in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. The three-day event, the largest tech competition ever staged in the Middle East, concludes on Friday.

 

The brainy female tech heads were competing shoulder-to-shoulder with male coders, software developers, programmers, designers, and innovators at the first event of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The competition took place at Jeddah’s International Exhibition and Convention Centre. Male or female, participants all had one goal — to come up with the most innovative solutions, using state-of-the-art technology, to make the Hajj a more efficient and enjoyable experience for the throngs that annually descend on Makkah for the religious pilgrimage.

 

Techno legends Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc., and Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, had joined the participants at the opening of the first Hajj Hackathon. Guinness World Records has announced that this week’s Saudi Arabia-based event drew a total of 2,950 developers, besting India’s previous 2012 record of 2,577 at a software development jam.

 

The female attendees at the Hajj Hackathon included Lebanon’s Rayan Al-Zahab, the first Arab woman hired as a developer by Google, which lent its support to the event by offering mentorship services and training for participants.

 

In his address on opening day, Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales lauded the strong female presence at the hackathon.

 

In tech, of course, we have a really serious problem with the lack of female talent throughout the entire industry, so it’s fantastic to see that, here, women are being supported in pursuing programming and technology as a career. I think it’s really an amazing and wonderful thing,” Wales said.

 

The hackathon has attracted leading programmers from around the globe eager to tackle the challenge to produce creative and innovative solutions to the problems inherent in the arrival of approximately 2 million pilgrims annually. Hajj will take place from August 19-24 this year. In the Hajj Hackathon competition, entrepreneurs and technology experts focus on areas such as crowd management, food, health, finance, traffic control, travel, housing, communications, and waste management, among others.

 

Nouf Al-Rakan, the chief executive of the Saudi Federation for Cyber Security, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP), the hackathon’s organiser, said in her address at the event opening on Tuesday night: “Starting from an ambitious Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is moving to a new era with a huge ambition. We will open doors and combine minds to spread a message that serves Islam and technology.

The organisers said in a statement that the “participation of women in the Hajj Hackathon is a visible demonstration of the Saudi 2030 Vision of empowering women”, adding: This initiative is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to stimulating innovation and assuming regional and global leadership in technology. It serves to focus the young and vibrant creative energies emerging in the Kingdom, providing diverse opportunities for them and helping to achieve the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.”

SAFCSP is an initiative that seeks to meet the goals and objectives of the Kingdom’s ‘Vision 2030’ national economic development and diversification strategy. SAFCSP is offering cash prizes to the top three finishers, amounting to a total of SAR2,000,000 to transform their ideas into application-based solutions.

This article was first published in  CIC

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4 Japanese catch the eye in Hajj Hackathon

Time: August 03, 2018 

Among 30 Japanese designers and programmers, Ryuta Nakagwe, Hikaru Hongu, Tsubasa Kohato and Yuta Suzuki look forward to developing a project with other participants and create new solutions that will benefit millions of Muslims as they perform Haj.

While setting together and discussing their innovative project and dressing the traditional clothing of Saudi Arabia, they all were very determined to win the first prize.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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With 2,950 participants from 100 countries, Hajj Hackathon makes Guinness Record

Time : August 02, 2018

Head of Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones Saud Bin Abdulla al-Kahtani receives the award

Saudi Arabia Hajj Hackathon organized by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones in Jeddah, has broken the Guinness World Record in terms of the number of participants topping 2,950 from over 100 countries.

Saudi counselor in the Royal Court, head of the Kingdom’s Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones Saud Bin Abdulla al-Kahtani expressed gratitude to King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman for their continuous support which led to this prestigious achievement.

Al-Kahtani said: “The Kingdom entering Guinness Records through Hajj Hackathon, confirms the ambition of the Saudi youths that their country is a gate for technology in the region,” referring that this achievement comes in parallel with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Young Saudis have been a vital part of this major event. (AFP)

The Saudi Guinness World Record official announcement came on Wednesday, where judge Ahmed Jabr representing the prestigious body handed the award to the head of Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones Saud Bin Abdulla al-Kahtani.

Saudi Hajj Hackathon broke the previous Guinness World Record for simultaneous Hackathon participants done by India with 2,577 participants back in 2012.

This year Hajj Hackathon, which attracted Tech companies from around the world with support from Google, run many workshops for the participants, encouraged youth to come forward with innovative ideas.

Thousands of software developers and computer and information-technology enthusiasts from more than 100 countries took part in Hajj hackathon in Jeddah which started on July, 31 and ends on August 3.

The Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones allocated $533,000 in prizes divided into three categories, where the first prize is worth $266,000, second prize $133,000, the Third prize is $93,000 while a prize of $39,000 goes to distinction.

The competition in the event included sectors surrounding the Hajj season, its services and challenges, including food and beverages, public health, financial solutions, transportation, crowd management, traffic control, travel and accommodation arrangements, waste and waste management, housing and communication solutions.

This article was first published in  Alarabiya

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Jeddah prepares to host Hajj Hackathon, largest event of its kind in the Mideast

Time : August 01, 2018

The cyber federation said it aims to attract leading minds in the field of programming to innovate technology solutions that contribute to enriching and improving pilgrims’ experience. (Supplied)

Jeddah is set to host the largest Hackathon in the Middle East with the participation of thousands of developers from both sexes and more than 100 countries during a three-day event from Wednesday onward.

This important event, organized by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, held an opening ceremony on Tuesday to continue the efforts of Saudi Arabia to serve the guests of Mecca and take advantage of the young talents, while highlighting women’s participation in the exploration and development of Hajj technology.

The cyber federation said it aims to attract leading minds in the field of programming to innovate technology solutions that contribute to enriching and improving pilgrims’ experience.

This initiative is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to stimulating innovation and regional and global leadership in technology. Supporting the young talents and providing opportunities for them, and achieving the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030.

The first edition of the #Hajj_Hackathon will see developers of both sexes from participate different countries including the Kingdom, the Gulf countries and the world, and so far the number of registered numbered at least 20,000 people.

This article was first published in  Alarabiya

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Education, Haj among 10 sectors set to be privatized

Apr 26, 2018

RIYADH — The privatization program announced by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) on Tuesday will focus on 10 government sectors, according to the CEO and board member of the National Center for Privatization and Public–Private Partnership (NCP) Turki A. Al Hokail.

The NCP-led initiative aims at boosting the contribution of local sectors to the national economy through a range of programs that seeks to transform the economy and make it more robust and dynamic.

The 10 government sectors identified for privatization include environment, water and agriculture; transportation; energy; labor and social development; telecommunications and IT; education; municipalities; health; housing; and Haj and Umrah.

Al-Hokail said the privatization program aims to enhance competitiveness, elevate the quality of service, contribute to economic development, and improve the business environment by privatizing government services.

The program also seeks to eliminate obstacles that may limit the private sector from playing a larger role in the development of the Kingdom’s economy, including developing and operationalizing the legal system related to markets, businesses and drafting a public-private-partnership law that will protect the rights of both users and investors.

“The privatization program is in the interest of Saudi citizens and will bring many benefits, and improve the investment climate. The program’s strong governance foundation effectively will be a strong pull factor for global investors and large corporations because it sets the guidelines that will make the program attractive. It will also allow the government to focus on overseeing and monitoring progress,” said Al-Hokail.

The privatization program aims to help increase the percentage of private sector contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP from 40% to 65%.

The National Center for Privatization & PPP established by Council of Minister’s resolution No. 355 is mandated to introduce privatization through the development of programs and regulations and put in place the necessary mechanism and tools to establish entities for private sector’s participation.

Some of the money is to come from asset sales in sectors such as education, water, telecommunications and health care. Some of those sales could occur through initial public offers of shares, while others might be direct transfers.

Hokail said Riyadh was willing in principle to consider sales of 100 percent stakes in state firms, but decisions on each deal would depend on investor demand and market conditions.

The rest of the money would come from public-private partnerships (PPPs) — deals in which private companies invest in infrastructure and are paid to operate it for a period, before eventually transferring it to the state.

Authorities hope to offer a draft law on PPP frameworks for public consultation and feedback within a week or so, before implementing a final version later this year, Hokail said. He said authorities aimed by 2020 to complete five asset sales, 14 PPPs and four corporatization exercises, in which state projects would be converted into independent firms in preparation for their possible sale at a later date. — With input from Reuters

This article was first published by Saudi Gazette