Dr. Badr Al-Bader was appointed CEO of the Misk Foundation on Monday.
The charity was founded in 2011 by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to develop youths’ leadership skills, and to focus on education, technology, media and culture to empower society through knowledge according to the best international standards.
Al-Bader thanked the crown prince for his appointment as CEO, saying it is a huge responsibility.
Al-Bader received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, and holds a master’s and a Ph.D. in the same field from Washington University.
He has participated in leadership programs at several universities such as Oxford, Cornell and George Washington.
Al-Bader has founded several companies, and was CEO of Dur Hospitality Co., where he led its transformation and launched its expansion strategy.
He was also managing director of CISCO Systems in Saudi Arabia for two years, before occupying the same role for Asia and Africa.
He was a member of a number of committees in chambers of commerce and industry, a member of the board of trustees of the Prince Salman Prize for Young Entrepreneurs, and a member of the advisory board of the faculty of business administration at King Faisal University, and of the faculty of information technology at KFUPM.
The Tokyo branch will encourage joint collaboration with Japanese creative entities in the industry. (SPA)
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The Tokyo branch will encourage joint collaboration with Japanese creative entities in the industry. (SPA)
The Tokyo branch will encourage joint collaboration with Japanese creative entities in the industry
RIYADH: Manga Productions, an affiliated company of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, has opened a branch in Tokyo, a move that reflects the company’s international growth as well as its successful Japanese partnerships in recent years.
The opening of the branch on June 28 was followed by the signing of memorandums of understanding between Manga Productions and Kadokawa Corp., Tokyo University of Technology, Mizuho Bank, and Misk Foundation’s Initiatives Center.
Badr bin Mohammed Al-Asaker, chairman of Manga Productions, said that strong Saudi-Japanese relations over decades “allow us to maintain, encourage and stimulate an environment suitable for cooperation in various fields, especially creative ones.”
The Tokyo branch will encourage joint collaboration with Japanese creative entities in the industry, he said.
“It will also reinforce our partnerships in Japan offering creative production and training programs for youth in gaming and animation,” Al-Asaker said.
RIYADH: The General Authority for Entertainment (GEA) launched its “Entertainment Pioneers” program, in partnership with the Initiatives Center at the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (Misk).
The program aims to prepare citizens, and especially fresh graduates, to work with the most renowned international companies in the field of entertainment, to gain experience, develop their skills in the field, and enable them to integrate this sector and contribute to its development and prosperity.
The program is part of GEA’s strategy to develop the sector of entertainment in accordance with the best international standards, and to provide it with qualified national competencies in this field, to meet the objectives of the Quality of Life program, a basic part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
The first stage of the program will kick off in collaboration with a leading American entertainment company that employs 44,000 people worldwide, and that has a record of more than 30,000 entertainment programs and 100 festivals, with its sales surpassing of 500 million tickets per year.
In addition, various international companies are participating in the event, in order to train Saudis in the tasks of planning, organization and management of entertainment programs and projects.
As part of its plans to develop and increase the size of local content in the entertainment sector, GEA is launching several other initiatives to train Saudi cadres develop their skills, and to integrate the job market especially in small and medium enterprises in the field of entertainment.
The Youth 20 Summit (Y20) is a global youth conference bringing together young experts from the G20 to discuss global youth issues. (Twitter)
The center also organized a workshop for young ambassadors from the G20 countries, which reviewed “Future of Work” research
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, represented by the Initiatives Center at the Misk Foundation, participated in the Youth 20 Summit (Y20) in Tokyo.
It adopted recommendations to be presented to G20 leaders meeting in Japan at the end of June, after agreeing on the development of three main areas including global trade, environment and business, and future work.
The Youth 20 Summit (Y20) is a global youth conference bringing together young experts from the G20 to discuss global youth issues through several proposed policies for G20 leaders.
The Initiative Center at Misk Foundation selected four young men and women representing civil society in the Kingdom to participate in the summit, where the sessions witnessed the consensus of all participants on the importance of developing these fields according to scientific and technical developments.
The center also organized a workshop for young ambassadors from the G20 countries, which reviewed “Future of Work” research.
Misk Schools will revolutionize learning with the aid of the world’s most pioneering classroom technology, while empowering teachers to deliver an even stronger education. (Misk Schools photo)
Misk Schools is the first school in Saudi Arabia to adopt AI
It seems that we will reap the fruits of Saudi Vision earlier than expected: Saleh Al-Ghamdi
JEDDAH: Saudi students will soon be learning with the aid of artificial intelligence, as Riyadh’s leading Misk Schools become the first in the country to introduce AI into the classroom.
From this September, students at Misk Schools will learn through and be assessed by artificial intelligence, providing a personalized education for each child and giving teachers greater insights into their performance. The school will use CENTURY, an award-winning teaching and learning platform that uses AI to adapt learning to each student’s individual strengths, weaknesses, behaviors and habits.
Founded by Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, Misk Schools is a state-of-the-art day school in Riyadh offering a new paradigm in education based on the best practices of international and progressive education.
Misk Schools says that the move will ensure that students are learning with the aid of the world’s most pioneering classroom technology, while empowering teachers to deliver an even stronger education.
Artificial intelligence — where machines are programmed to perform tasks traditionally associated with humans — is transforming education across the world. It is used to tailor learning to each student, while freeing teachers’ time to teach by automating admin tasks such as marking and planning. It also provides them with extensive data on each child’s performance, allowing for more effective targeted interventions to support or stretch students.
While Misk Schools is the first school in Saudi Arabia to adopt AI, the Middle East is leading the way internationally in using AI and technology to improve education.
Director General of Misk Schools Peter Hamilton said that they were excited to be partnering with CENTURY as its breaks new ground in ways to embed technology to transform the learning experience for students. “We seek to both support and challenge our learners, and by partnering with CENTURY we will empower our students to take ownership of their learning. Moreover, CENTURY will allow our teachers to have better insight into the daily work of each student, and to better plan future work in the classroom.” Hamilton said.
Founder and CEO of CENTURY Tech Priya Lakhani said: “AI is transforming schools across the world by providing a more personalized education to students, while simultaneously empowering teachers with precise data so that they can perform even better as educators.
“AI is the only way we can move from the failed, outdated ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to ‘one-size-fits-one.’ It allows each student to learn at their own pace, with lessons and tests tailored to maximize their strengths and rapidly address their weaknesses,” she said.
“I am delighted to welcome Misk Schools to the CENTURY family. From children in leading independent schools to Syrian refugees in the Middle East, CENTURY is being used across the world to improve the lives of children and young adults from all backgrounds.”
Saleh Al-Ghamdi, an English language teacher, told Arab News that introducing AI into classrooms was a major leap forward in the Saudi education system.
“It seems that we will earlier than expected reap the fruits of the promising Saudi Vision before 2030 falls. It is an important step that will entirely change education in Saudi Arabia. I see the step as a road map to a bright education future,” Al-Ghamdi said.
He added that Saudi Arabia is looking forward to putting its citizens on the path toward first-world countries. “Introducing AI in our schools is one of the ways that can significantly help in achieving our Vision 2030 goals. It is true that this process may require big efforts, but with determination nothing is impossible,” Al-Ghamdi said.
Introducing AI in schools would greatly help students to feel successful and educators more productive. “It will also assist in promoting active learning and deeper engagement. What is more, it will make educators’ jobs more focused and much easier,” he said.
Al-Ghamdi said that some teachers might fear that the introduction of AI in education would threaten their jobs, but “the truth is that this revolution in education will hopefully make robots and computer programs and technology, in general, a supporting element to their indispensable profession,” he said.
Research involving more than 11,000 students using CENTURY showed that the platform improves understanding of a topic by an average of 30 percent. It also frees teachers from admin tasks such as marking and planning — saving an average of six hours a week and allowing them to focus on teaching itself.
Last month CENTURY Tech agreed a landmark agreement with the Belgium government. As a leading teaching and learning platform that uses artificial intelligence in its design, CENTURY Tech is rapidly spreading across the world, from English independent schools to schools in Lebanon educating large numbers of Syrian refugees.
Jana Yamani and her children. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Life is not a race to see who achieves more. It is a marathon in which you try to outpace and outgrow the version of yourself from yesterday. Every single day.
When I was a young girl growing up in Saudi Arabia, my parents cultivated in me a strong passion for science, technology and constant learning. My father, a Harvard-trained nuclear physicist, would share with me the latest articles from scientific journals and explain to us over our daily family dinner the latest scientific discoveries from around the world. My mother would spend hours with us each day going over schoolwork and encouraging us to read books from outside our curriculum — proving to me that learning is not something that is tied to degrees or institutions, it is a lifelong mindset.
Upon graduating from high school I earned ninth place in the national academic standings. I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Northeastern University, double-majoring in computer science and mathematics. I was class summa cum laude, the highest honor in a US academic institution. During my four years of study, I completed a co-op at Microsoft Corporation’s headquarters and worked on two research projects, one of which won the university’s Best Undergraduate Research award.
I got married during my late teens and gave birth to our first child, Leen, soon after I graduated. Motherhood was, and still is, my biggest challenge. Although I took a year and a half off to take care of my daughter, I still felt she deserved more of my time and attention; concurrently, I felt the need to develop and invest in myself. This led me to apply to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I was accepted by the computational science master’s program.
I moved to the US and was a single mother during the two years I spent at MIT, while my husband supported us from Saudi Arabia. The motherly feeling of guilt continued and I discovered later that more than 60 percent of working mothers feel the same. In fact, woman should be encouraged to work, as research shows that the children of working moms have higher chances of success in their professional lives.
I was blessed with three other kids after Leen. Each of them came at a different stage in my career. Salman, my second-eldest, was born soon after I graduated from MIT and before I started work for management consulting firm McKinsey. A consulting career and two toddlers to take care of left me with no free time at all. Frankly, what I learned in the year and half I spent there was more than I had learned during many years previously.
When my husband was relocated by his employer to Mountain View, California, it gave me an opportunity to develop my consulting skills in the Silicon Valley ecosystem, so I joined Medallia, a unicorn technology company that builds customer experience solutions for some of the world’s top brands, including Apple, IBM, Adidas and Four Seasons. I gave birth to my third child, Badr, during this time.
As Saudi Arabia began to embark on a journey of massive transformation, my husband and I felt the urge to be part of that change and so we decided to return to the Kingdom.
As soon as we got back, we realized there was an abundance of opportunities. I noticed a clear gap in the market for the supply for high-quality art and culture programs, so I took matters into my own hands and organized Saudi Arabia’s first international classical-music event. We used the proceedings from that to fund a scholarship program in one of the top five music schools in Europe for 20 Saudi musicians. That was the kind of change I wanted to be part of.
I was then approached to join Misk Foundation to do similar things across a number of sectors for many more young people. The goal is to build the next generation of leaders, innovators and creators in our beloved country. We have trained more than 30,000 youths as part of our program, and I have come to believe that we have extremely talented and ambitious young people who are passionate about realizing the Saudi Vision 2030. They merely need to be guided and exposed to opportunities so that they can transform their passions into action. •
Program open to university seniors and new graduates
RIYADH: A new internship program for young Saudis has been launched in the Kingdom, following a partnership between Misk Foundation and the Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC).
The program runs from June 16 to Aug. 31, 2019, and provides an opportunity for university seniors and recent graduates to be part of Qiddiya, an entertainment mega-project located 40 minutes from Riyadh.
Interns will have the chance to work at Qiddiya’s corporate offices alongside professionals from around the world and will be placed across 12 departments.
They will learn and develop skills that are required to succeed in their professional lives.
They will also gain exposure to QIC’s culture and learn from executives with over 20 years of experience across several sectors.
QIC CEO Mike Reininger said: “We are contributing directly to the Saudi Vision (2030 reform plan) by creating a richer lifestyle for Saudi citizens while spurring innovation in the creative, hospitality and entertainment sectors. This unique opportunity allows students and fresh graduates to experience what it takes to be part of the change in Saudi by giving them the chance to work alongside a group of both local and international seasoned professionals. Thanks to this partnership with MiSK, we will be training the next generation of industry leaders.”
Application to the program is open for those with fewer than two years of professional experience. Candidates must show strong academic credentials and submit a short video as part of their application.
King Salman led the Qiddiya ground-breaking ceremony in front of a global audience last April.
The project is aimed at helping to stem the $30 billion a year which Saudis currently spend abroad on tourism, and has the backing of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
It targets local, regional and international tourists and will be Saudi Arabia’s preeminent entertainment, sports and cultural destination.
It is expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city by 2030, with a total area of 334 square kilometers, surpassing Walt Disney World in Florida, which is only 110 sq. km.
Misk Innovation and 500 Startups help accelerate innovation and entrepreneurism by bringing Silicon Valley growth techniques to young regional companies, helping them scale and fundraise by imparting knowledge. (Supplied photo)
The first batch includes 19 start-ups from across the region, specializing in various fields
The platform allows businesses to access quality candidates through a matching algorithm
DUBAI: Young Arabs are taking the region’s offline markets online, from fitness and recruitment to car repairs and chalet hire.
Nineteen start-ups have been chosen so far to take part in the Misk 500 MENA Accelerator Program.
Anwaar Alrefae, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti, is one of them, with her Project 5 Miles (P5M) health and fitness app.
“We help people get fit and support them in staying fit,” she said.
“What’s important for the community in the region is family, friends and work, and because fitness isn’t an integral part of these pillars in people’s lives, when things get stressful, the first thing to drop is a healthy lifestyle because it’s not an integral part of their lives.”
Launched last year, the app’s name stems from pushing through the hardest first 5 miles.
“In those first 5 miles, it’s a new experience and you’re trying to discover what works for you and what doesn’t,” Alrefae said.
“Once you push through them, you know what works for you and how to fit it into your life, and it’s easier for you to get active.”
Her objective is to combine fitness and socializing, as her app allows members to book classes in multiple gyms with friends and family.
“It allows people to be social in an active way, and it’s less likely for them to drop being active because they can be social with friends and family while being active, which brings in the element of entertainment,” she said.
“The practice of anything is finding a routine without boredom, so by being able to find that flexibility in such activities, people won’t get bored.
“It’s human nature, and we want to keep people on their toes and engaged.”
Having grown up in Kuwait and studied in Boston, Alrefae hopes to dispel the misconception that the region is generally “lazy,” being extremely active herself.
“By adding this physical component to people’s lives, they’ll really be able to have a sense of independence and confidence, and set a goal and achieve it … Besides the health aspect, it will also have a huge mental effect.”
Mohamed Ibrahim, a Sudanese who was raised in Riyadh, is one of Alrefae’s classmates in the Misk program.
He created Sabbar earlier this year as a recruitment solution that focuses on jobs in the retail and service industry.
It provides businesses in Saudi Arabia with a platform that automates their recruitment process, halving their recruitment time and cost.
It also offers potential workers a mobile app that allows them to find nearby jobs.
The start-up is timely, with a recent labor law in the Kingdom pushing businesses to hire more Saudis.
“It’s a unique offering where we find jobs in a geographical way,” Ibrahim said.
“There’s no platform for Saudis to find retail jobs, like baristas or cashiers, so this helps businesses in their challenge today to hire faster and easier.”
The platform allows businesses to access quality candidates through a matching algorithm built on jobseekers’ personality and desire, and to ensure that potential hires are retained longer.
“There’s a high turnover in Saudi Arabia in this (retail and service) industry — up to 70 percent — compared to the global average of 24 percent,” he said.
“You have businesses today that are struggling to meet the demand of filling vacancies quickly due to the hire turnover, and there’s a struggle to grow because of it, so when the labor law came out I saw retailers go through a lot of challenges, so it’s a niche market I can definitely grow.”
For Abdullah Shamlan, a 29-year-old Yemeni who was born and raised in Riyadh, the Misk program has provided him with invaluable mentorship to grow his business Speero.
“You learn from the best, and the quality of the network of founders you’re exposed to is great,” he said.
“It’s the largest in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, which definitely helps.”
Speero is an online marketplace that helps businesses and individuals find spare parts for cars in a more convenient way.
“We connect spare-parts stores with customers. It helps organize some complicated industries, like spare parts,” Shamlan said.
“There’s no single solution that tells you about spare-parts prices and their validation in the market, so we’re doing the tough job for the government on the ground.”
With more than 8,000 suppliers in the Kingdom, Speero has started helping 150 of them manage their inventory while providing almost instant quotations to customers on the search, before delivering the parts to their doorstep.
“We serve more than 5,000 people in Saudi Arabia, and we’re taking a totally offline market online,” Shamlan said.
“There’s a need for this because it’s a daily struggle, and we already crossed $1 million in sales in less than 18 months.”
Renting chalets in the Kingdom is another practice that has been made easier, thanks to Latifah Altamimi, a 30-year-old Saudi from Riyadh who created GatherN in November 2016.
“It’s a platform that helps people search and book chalets in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
“We also help chalet owners list their properties and manage them, so it’s like a combination of a Saudi Airbnb and Booking.com.”
The start-up stemmed from Altamimi’s own experience as a regular customer, spending every weekend in a chalet in Riyadh for social and family gatherings.
In one year alone, the app’s customer base grew 500 percent.
“There’s demand for it. We have more than 6.2 million transactions every year in this market, but 99.99 percent are done manually, for walk-in customers or calling the reception of the (chalet),” she said.
“It’s a concept developed in Saudi Arabia, with more than 100,000 resorts in the Kingdom.
“We now have more than 1,000 chalets, with huge room for improvement.”
Altamimi said the Misk program has been extremely beneficial, adding: “We already know a lot, but there’s a huge difference between knowing and doing. It’s a great opportunity to expand, and we’re working on our growth. We already grew 40 percent in the seven weeks we’ve been with them (the program).”
One of the challenges she is working on is converting her leads into bookings.
“We now have more than 15 employees, 8 percent of whom are Saudis, and we’re planning to reach 25 employees,” she said.
“I was an employee for seven years and I’m a proactive person. I like to try different things and experiment. I worked in an international company where I didn’t have the space to be creative and do more than what I was expected to, so having my own company gives me huge space to experiment, be creative and contribute to the country’s economy.”
The Misk program began on Jan. 27, 2019.
It will conclude with a demo day on May 13 in Riyadh.
For the greater good of Saudi youth and the world’s youth collectively, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman launched a non-profit foundation under his name in 2011, which has become widely known as MiSK. Today, it serves as an educational and cultural beacon both domestically and internationally. MiSK is exceeding expectations and graciously serving its ultimate purpose of representing, promoting and empowering the most promising of youth.
Education, media and culture are considered the pillars which the foundation prides itself on supporting. When embraced and supported appropriately, the strengthening of the three pillars play vital roles in transforming the youth of today into the leaders and achievers of tomorrow. And MiSK is doing just that. Whether it’s through the foundation’s annual forums, trainee partnerships, internships, fellowship programs or generous donations, MiSK is offering prestigious opportunities to excelling Saudi youth and aiding youth globally as well. MiSK is also handling capacities of ambassadorship by promoting the Kingdom’s image abroad. Foreigners tend to become immediate fans of MiSK upon learning about the foundation and its positive contributions to society.
As the Deputy Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, Khaled Manzlawiy, expressed in a recent op-ed, “The primary goal of (MiSK) focuses on the country’s youth and provides different means of fostering talent, creative potential and innovation in a healthy environment that paves the way toward opportunities in the arts and sciences. (In doing so), Saudi Arabia projects a better image of its modernization to the world.”
The mission of the Prince Muhammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK), as the organization puts it, is to build a “society of knowledge where young people are able to learn and advance in the fields of education, media and culture through establishing incubators and encouraging esteemed institutions to provide an attractive and stimulating environment.” Now, that’s a statement we all ought to admire. A statement any young individual from any country would love to hear. MiSK is a serious asset to our society, and the Crown Prince is once again championing for the Kingdom’s youth through this foundation.
With about half of the Saudi population still under the age of 25, MiSK is an extremely fitting establishment to have in the Kingdom. And with half a nation under 25, this could only mean that many have either yet to reach legal employment ages or have just recently begun their professional careers. Here, we see exactly why MiSK is a crucial role-player. The foundation will surely assist in achieving Vision 2030 and the Kingdom’s progress overall. By ensuring the best of our youth get the support they need, we can produce tomorrow’s contributors to our economy.
With Bader Al-Asaker having led the foundation’s execution for years, along with a dynamic young team, it’s no surprise that MiSK has flourished. Under the supervision and direction of the Crown Prince, Al-Asaker has diligently carried the foundation to great heights. The recently appointed secretary general, Bader Al-Kahail, shall continue unlocking the foundation’s immense potential, while Al-Asaker remains hands-on as Chairman of MiSK Initiatives Center. The Crown Prince’s vision for the non-profit is coming to fruition.
I discussed MiSK and its potentials with my good friend and fellow youth, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Farhan Al-Saud, and he stated, “MiSK’s contribution to society and education is of substantial importance. I believe that in the upcoming future, it will become one of the world’s leading charity foundations, playing an integral role in the region’s social and educational progress”.
Crown Prince Muhammad founded a gem that the Kingdom has longed for. And with MiSK’s current initiatives and continued growth, the most talented of our youth are in good hands.
The writer is a Saudi political analyst who specializes in foreign affairs and protocol. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @waleedalg
The only non-educational entity that is ranked among top 5 participants
H.E. Mr. Badr bin Mohammed Al-Asaker, Chairman, Misk Initiative Center awarded Saudi Customs for playing an effective role in supporting the Foundation’s ‘Saudi Codes’ initiative through the active participation of its employees and their family members.
During the awarding Ceremony, H.E. Governor of Saudi Customs Mr. Ahmed Alhakbani received an award trophy on behalf of Customs for being among the top 5 entities in terms of engagement with the initiative. Furthermore, Customs was the only non-educational entity to be ranked within the top five, among which were government, private, and educational entities.
On this occasion, H.E. Mr. Alhakbani extended his appreciation for Misk Foundationwho has initiated this pioneering program that aims at equipping participants all over the Kingdom with the basic digital and coding skills.
He also described the initiative as a great opportunity for Customs employees to learn programming via short and interactive lessons and tutorials provided on the initiative’s electronic platform. He also praised the progress achieved by Customs employees and their families and thanked them for their contributions which made it possible for Customs to accomplish this high ranking.
It is worth mentioning that Saudi Codes is an initiative organized by Misk Foundation in partnership with MCIT and STC. It targets Saudis and aims to promote a culture of coding and encourage learning the basics of coding and other digital skills being increasingly demanded by the labor market.
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