NEOM aims to be world’s most competitive city

Time: 19 July 2021

The $500 billion mega-city will transform more than 26,500 sq. km in the Kingdom’s northwestern Tabuk region. (Supplied)

Giga project may need as much as 30 gigawatts or 30,000 megawatts of installed capacity by end of decade
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM is on a mission to become the world’s most competitive free zone, said CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.
“NEOM is meant to be a model where this region will be a semi-independent free zone, it will have its own laws, it will have its own regulations and its own authority as a semi-government,” he told an online conference hosted by Nikkei, the Japanese media group. “The reason for this is because it is our vision to make this the most competitive free zone in the world,” he said.
The event, held in partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) and the Smart City Institute highlighted the investment appeal of the giga project which was originally revealed in October 2017 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman introduced it to the world at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.
The $500 billion mega-city planned as part of the drive to diversify away from oil, is destined to transform more than 26,500 sq. km in the Kingdom’s northwestern Tabuk region.
Peter Terium, managing director of energy, water and fuel at NEOM, revealed the different types of renewable energy sources that were being developed on the project and the challenges involved.
“We are going to build a land of the future, and the future is about sustainability,” Terium said.
“Just to give you a feel for the size of what we’re talking about. We are thinking about a society in 2030 that will need 30 gigawatts or 30,000 megawatts of installed capacity to support its energy consumption; that is a lot and is comparable to the size of a country like Portugal or Austria,” he said.
Terium explained the development anticipated a high degree of electrification, “whether it is electric mobility, electric drones or using electricity as a carbon-free form of energy and applications where it is currently not done.”
In order to patch a desert the size of Belgium into a mega-city powered by renewable energy, certain technological advancements would be needed to meet the electricity consumption levels such as the use of micro grids, he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi Arabia is building cyber resilience while accelerating digital transformation


The Kingdom has made notable progress in international indicators. KSA’s cybersecurity professionals are getting a boost through training initiatives to meet the growing threat of cyberattacks. (Reuters/File Photo)

As the Internet claims an ever-greater share of daily life, opportunities for cybercrime have increased greatly
Authorities are waging a digital war to protect citizens and companies from high-tech criminal underworld
RIYADH: The Internet is home to some extremely malevolent behavior. A range of bad actors is intent on stealing people’s money, information and identities, and on crippling essential services.

Of the countless entities and individuals targeted, some of the more prominent are Saudi Aramco, Bangladesh Bank, Colonial Pipeline, the Democratic Party of the US, and the UK’s House of Commons. In 2015, the self-proclaimed Yemen Cyber Army attacked the Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In common with other GCC states, Saudi Arabia is a prime target of cybercrime, for several reasons. It is a wealthy country with a digitally active population, is positioned at the center of the global energy sector, and located in a region with no shortage of geopolitical tensions. It is also home to Saudi Aramco, among the world’s most valuable companies.

The Kingdom’s vulnerable position was highlighted in 2012 when the Shamoon virus crippled a significant portion of Saudi Aramco’s IT network. Shamoon was one of the most destructive cyberattacks on any business up to that time, and forced Aramco to shut down and literally replace a large proportion of its computers. The same malware has resurfaced over the years, causing further mayhem in every case.

Identifying perpetrators is fraught because they take great effort to conceal identities, and typically adopt the techniques, procedures and languages of other suspect actors. And when a virus is brought under control, a new one, or a more destructive mutation of the original, may be unleashed on unsuspecting populations and underprepared corporations.

Shamoon was highly publicized, but many GCC companies and organizations continue to face similar attacks from the likes of Morris Worm, Nimda, Iloveyou, Slammer and Stuxnet.

As the Internet claims an ever-greater share of people’s daily lives, the opportunity for cybercrime increases exponentially. The Internet of Things (IoT) may enable a fridge to order fresh milk from the supermarket automatically, and an expat’s currency to arrive in the form of blockchain, but this only broadens the range of potential cyber targets.

Khalid Al-Harbi, Saudi Aramco’s chief information security officer, was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The pattern of cyberattacks is cyclical. We are seeing that the magnitude is increasing, and I would suspect that this will continue to be a trend.”

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in cybercrime. As the contagion forced many companies to introduce working from home, malicious actors were able to take advantage of the typically reduced IT security of remote workers. The global police body Interpol reported a spike in both malware and spam in the months after the pandemic took hold — affecting the GCC as much as the rest of the world.

Remote staff are the weakest link of any network. No matter how many millions an organization may spend on developing a robust IT firewall at the office, that advanced security can be undone by the easy or predictable password of a negligent individual working from home, the click on a dubious link, or the unwise sharing of personal data on social media.

In a white paper released by the International Data Corporation, Uzair Mujtaba, its program manager for Saudi Arabia, observed that “as endpoints become increasingly disparate, the attack surface will expand significantly, and this is compelling technology and security leaders to adopt innovative approaches to cybersecurity.”

According to a new report by VMware, an American cloud computing and virtualization technology company, nearly 93 percent of the 252 organizations it surveyed in Saudi Arabia experienced a cyberattack in the past year.

The findings, a part of VMware’s Global Security Insights Report, came from an online survey conducted in December 2020 of 3,542 chief information security officers (CISOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and chief technology officers (CTOs).

The average number of breaches suffered by each organization was 2.47 over the past year, while 11 percent of respondents said their organizations had been breached between 5 to 10 times.

Some 80 percent of respondents agreed that they need to view security differently than they did in the past due to an expanded attack surface prompted by the pandemic.

* Among the viruses causing the biggest havoc are Stuxnet, NotPetya and Lockergoga.

* Perpetrators include Unit 74455 of Russia’s GRU military intelligence, North Korea’s Bureau 39, Iran’s Cyber Army.

Responding to this growing threat, the Kingdom has positioned itself at the global forefront of cyber defense. The Shamoon incident of 2012 was a wake-up call, prompting the Saudi government to focus and mobilize resources for the creation of an entire cybersecurity ecosystem to confront both local and foreign adversaries.

This is a key element of Vision 2030. The National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) was established by a royal decree in October 2017 and is mandated with implementing the National Information Security Strategy — formalizing a Kingdom-wide framework for cybersecurity, risk mitigation, and resilience via governance policies, standards, cyber-defense operations, and development of human capital and local industry capabilities.

The NCA’s stated mission is to “work closely with public and private entities to improve the cybersecurity posture of the country in order to safeguard its vital interests, national security, critical infrastructures, high-priority sectors, and government services and activities in alignment with Vision 2030.”

That sounds like a tall order, but the Kingdom is already a leader in terms of cyber vigilance, with a formidable knowledge base. Indeed, in 2020, the World Competitiveness Center ranked Saudi Arabia as second globally in “the field of continuous improvement of corporate cybersecurity.”

Speaking to Arab News, Haider Pasha, chief technology officer at Symantec Middle East, said: “You need to really understand where your sensitive data is, where the assets are, and have a robust strategy or framework that you can abide by. I see that happening more and more in Saudi Arabia.”

Every country is facing the threat of cybercrime, but the Kingdom is at the front line of this battle given its rapid pace of transformation and already advanced IT and AI infrastructure. Saudi government ministries are designing proprietary cybersecurity programs as opposed to merely installing products and fixes.

An example of this combination of transformation and high-tech is the Kingdom’s push toward “smart cities” — in which citizens have online access to most, if not all, private and public services, and can easily interact with various government agencies.

Riyadh is one such place, while NEOM, the $500 billion development in the northwest of the Kingdom, is emerging as the first large-scale urban project to be designed and built from the ground up in the era of artificial intelligence.

NEOM, envisaged as a cluster of smart urban spaces, can leapfrog older cities by using cutting-edge and integrated technologies, specifically in the realm of cyberspace.

Cyber resilience is critical to the ambitions of NEOM and other developments, whose expected dependence on AI, e-commerce, IoT and blockchain technology means that the Internet will remain a battleground in which national authorities must constantly enhance the defense of their populations from an evermore sophisticated criminal underworld.

Fortunately, the decision-makers of Saudi Arabia are doing just that.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Art Jameel announces opening date for Hayy Jameel cultural complex in Jeddah


The long-awaited Hayy Jameel has announced it will finally open the doors this winter. Supplied

  • The 17,000-square-meter cultural complex will open in Jeddah this winter, 2021

DUBAI: In another win for the Saudi art scene, the long-awaited Hayy Jameel has announced it will finally open the doors to its sprawling 17,000-square-meter cultural complex in Jeddah in winter 2021. Hayy Jameel, which derives its name from the Arabic word for “neighborhood,” intends to be exactly such — a space for collaboration and creative exchange. The new cultural complex adds to the growing list of new cultural enterprises launched in the Kingdom over the last several years as Saudi Arabia continues its mission to push for a “creative economy.”

“Hayy Jameel is set to be a home-from-home for Jeddah’s creative community — a dynamic, multidisciplinary complex created specifically to support the art scene and nurture next-generation talent,” Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, told Arab News.

Hayy Jameel three-storey render. Supplied

“This is a hugely exciting, new era for Saudi culture, in general. Now, complementing and supporting the dynamic and large-scale developments led by the Ministry of Culture and government-affiliated entities, we have the first major not-for-profit, private sector contribution and one with a wholly civic purpose,” she added.

Located in a three-story edifice in the residential area of Al-Mohammadiyyah in north Jeddah, Hayy Jameel will include the launch of Hayy Cinema, a 200-seat cinema that marks Saudi Arabia’s first independent cinema; Hayy Arts, a 700-square-meter exhibition center; Hayy Studio, an artists’ studio; Feta Hayy, a multi-purpose space for performances, workshops and talks; Hayy Learning, a community-focused education platform featuring a program that offers in-person and virtual learning, research and apprenticeships; and Hayy Residents, a space that will bring together pioneering creative businesses from Jeddah, ranging from contemporary art and performance to design and publishing, as well as baking institutes, new cafes and restaurants.

The the interior space is open and centered around Saha. Supplied

The complex is designed by waiwai, a Dubai and Tokyo-based architectural studio, also the creator of the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park in front of Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center. The cinema is designed by Jeddah-based Bricklab, a commission awarded to the firm after an international design competition staged by Art Jameel.

Jeddah has long been known for its creative scene, with its annual 21’39 festival that has taken place throughout the city since 2013; its Athr Gallery and Hafez Gallery, two of the Kingdom’s most renowned art galleries; and its host of emerging and established Saudi artists. The city will also play host to the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival in November 2021. What has been lacking in the scene, however, are spaces in which to create and incubate artistic production.

Hayy Arts render. Supplied

In many ways, Hayy Jameel has arrived as the missing ingredient in Jeddah’s cultural mission. It is distinct from Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center in that its purpose is not solely to act as a museum or place to exhibit the Jameel family collection but to nurture cross-cultural dialogue and creative production.

“We think of Jameel Arts Center as a contemporary visual arts museum and Hayy as a multidisciplinary creative hub,” added Carver. “Both embrace creative dialogue, while Hayy focuses more on artistic production.”

Hayy Cinema render. Supplied

Such ideas are reflected in its architecture. Its three-story structure is characterized by tall façades that reflect the intimacy of a private home, while the interior space is open and centered around Saha, a communal courtyard meant to be a re-interpretation of the traditional courtyard typology with surrounding landscaping rooted in sustainable and green practices. The structure’s airy ambiance is supported by natural light, which streams in from all sides, further enhancing the space as a place for easy dialogue and creation. The building uses a steel structure with aluminum cladding and concrete flooring — elements that offer flexibility to the spaces, allowing them to be used in a versatile fashion for exhibitions, events, workshops and more.

Saha, a communal courtyard meant to be a re-interpretation of the traditional courtyard. Supplied

Hayy’s architecture and design are already the recipients of numerous architectural accolades, including Gold in the Hong Kong Design Awards; Silver in the New York Design Awards; and the Honor Award for Exceptional Design by the American Institute of Architects’ Middle East chapter. It has also been nominated for the 2A Continental Architectural Award as well as the London Design Awards.

Hayy’s inaugural show titled “Staple: What’s on your plate?” is co-curated with London-based partner the Delfina Foundation. Inspired by Jeddah’s diverse demographic, the exhibition will explore the relationship between food and memory, ecology, and place through the works of over 30 artists, thinkers, performers, researchers, filmmakers, and other creative practitioners.

The kickoff date for such conversations is set for November 2021 and will continue until April 2022, supported by a public program of talks, performances, and educational and film programs, with contributions from regional and international artists. Workshops will also be held for people of all ages, from children to the elderly, proving how art is accessible to all and the creative journey and knowledge acquired through it long-lasting.

Abdul Latif Jameel (center) with management, 1980s. Supplied

Hayy Jameel also marks the 75th anniversary of the Jameel family’s global philanthropy.

Headquartered in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Jameel family has long been one of the Arab world’s biggest patrons. For decades, Art Jameel has supported artists and creative communities across the Middle East through exhibitions, commissions, research, and community-building, propelled by the belief that the arts can be open and accessible to all. Hayy is the next chapter in Art Jameel’s journey.

“Art Jameel was born in Jeddah, and Hayy is our most ambitious project to date,” Fady Jameel, chairman of Art Jameel, told Arab News. “This homecoming, at a time of unprecedented local interest and investment in the arts, is such a significant milestone moment for our family.”

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Fresh from collaboration with Net-a-Porter, Saudi fashion guru Norah Al-Eisa reveals career highs

Time: 27 May 2021

Based in Riyadh, she started her career as a fashion editor. (Instagram)

DUBAI: From reading her mother’s fashion magazines and playing dress up to international partnerships with leading global e-tailer Net-a-Porter, French luxury label Cartier, and more, Saudi fashion guru Norah Al-Eisa told Arab News how she was taking the fashion world by storm.

A stylist on the set of the film “Born a King,” she recently collaborated with Net-a-Porter on a live video session during which she shared her fashion tips and tricks of the trade with platform followers.

She pointed out that her passion for fashion had started at a young age.

“It came very organically to me as I grew up reading my mom’s fashion magazines and playing dress up with her clothes.

“As for the time I actually decided to pursue a career in fashion, it’s when I saw films like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘13 going on 30’ where the main characters worked for fashion magazines,” she said.

Al-Eisa studied business administration but took “fashion business” and styling courses at London College of Fashion to broaden her knowledge.

Based in Riyadh, she started her career as a fashion editor, then dabbled in historical costume design before going on to style some of the biggest fashion and fine jewelry campaigns in Saudi Arabia.The influencer also regularly shares her fashion know-how and styling tips on social media through her Instagram account at @norahaleisa.

She noted that the Saudi fashion scene had been “almost nonexistent” until a few years ago. “But it seems to be thriving more and more lately and will only grow even more with the (Saudi) fashion commission. I hope to see a thriving fashion ecosystem in Saudi.”

However, her career comes with its challenges. “So many publications and brands expect freelance creatives to work for free in return for exposure when exposure should not even be considered a form of payment.

“It’s simply a given to provide credit. That being said, I am seeing more and more opportunities in the industry that offer sustainable wages and rates, and I hope it gets better from here,” she added.

Al-Eisa said she felt privileged to have a supportive family that had helped her along her chosen career path and being the stylist for “Born a King” had been one of the highlights and proudest moments so far.

The film tells the story of the late King Faisal who as a teenage prince was sent to London on a diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.

“It was the longest and most challenging project I’ve ever faced. I spent a whole year on pre-production working on the costume design for the film, so naturally finally seeing it at the cinema was a very emotional experience,” she added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia plans e-learning portal for kindergarten pupils

Time: 06 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s new kindergarten e-learning portal will feature attractive and interesting tools that enable teachers to evaluate and enhance students’ basic skill

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia will launch an e-learning portal for kindergarten pupils in the next academic year, local media reported.

Minister of Education, Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, said the new portal would feature attractive and interesting tools that enable teachers to evaluate and enhance students’ basic skills.

The remarks were made on Monday as the minister honoured officials of the Madrasati e-learning platform, including the Public Education Agency, the E-Learning and Distance Education Department, the Digital Transformation Department, and the Cybersecurity Department, in appreciation of their efforts to render successful the distance learning process.

An online nursery, where children can learn by taking part in activities and watching videos on smartphones, has already launched in Saudi Arabia.

Children between the ages of 3 and 6 can log in to their nurseries on mobile phones and learn Islamic studies, play games, read stories and submit projects.

Through the virtual nursery, which is open to Saudi citizens and residents, children can access age-appropriate educational content similar to what is provided at schools.

“The children do not get direct support from teachers but can upload projects and work on the platform, which is assessed by a teacher.

As children cannot be exposed to smartphones for long periods of time, the application automatically shuts the child out after they have used it for an hour.

This article was first published in Gulf News

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Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary zero carbon city ‘The Line’ hailed as dawn of tech-based future


Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development. (SPA)

Saudis welcome plans for revolutionary zero carbon city
JEDDAH: Saudi officials and citizens have welcomed the Kingdom’s revolutionary zero carbon city, announced on Sunday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The city — named “The Line” — will be a car-free city within Saudi Arabia’s futuristic NEOM business hub along the Red Sea coast.

The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year. It will allow 1 million residents to live in a “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions” city but around nature.

“It is a new era of civilization, a new model for a city which is clean, proper and with zero carbon,” Saudi economist Mazen Al-Sudairi told Arab News welcoming this major step. “This will improve the efficiency of humankind.”

He added that Saudi Arabia is moving toward a new data-based civilization as compared to the older civilization, which was built on the flow of water and vegetation.

Moreover, Al-Sudairi believes that this model will attract more foreign direct investment and provide a tech-based future.

Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Abdullah Alswaha, said on Twitter: “Saudi Arabia enters the great book of history as an innovative force for the 21st century.”

He noted that the city is moving to green and renewable energy, stressing that the region can exploit solar energy and winds by more than 70 percent, which makes NEOM one of the top three places around the world for energy efficiency.

In addition, NEOM also has the capability to produce green hydrogen, he told Al-Arabiya on Monday.


• The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year.

• The city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.

• It will allow 1 million residents to live in a ‘zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions’ city but around nature.

He added that the futuristic city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.

The crown prince said the backbone of investment would come from Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund — the Public Investment Fund — and local and international investors for the NEOM project.

Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development.

Even in light of the global economic tension resulting from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, foreign investment in the Kingdom jumped by 2 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Al-Eqtisadiah reported.

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, said on Twitter: “It is one of the major projects that places people first and employs technology to serve societies.”

The project is a direct response to some of the vital challenges facing humanity, such as infrastructure, pollution, traffic and human congestion, NEOM said.

Education Minister Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh also welcomed the announcement saying: “The crown prince’s global vision for The Line places the humans’ life, health, environment, productivity and entertainment first.

“The project is characterized by the principles of global humanity, economic diversity and artificial intelligence, and the enhancement of research and innovation opportunities for the future industry.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia in partnership deal with UN agency to empower children in cyberspace

Time: 18 December 2020

Keeping children safe in cyberspace is a key priority. (AFP)
  • Program’s launch reinforces crown prince’s international initiative to protect youngsters

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday signed a cybersecurity cooperation deal with a specialist UN telecoms agency to help strengthen child online safety.
The strategic partnership agreement was inked between the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) and the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to coincide with the launch of a global program to create a safe and prosperous cyberspace for children.
NCA Gov. Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Sabti and ITU’s telecommunication development bureau director Doreen Bogdan-Martin penned the accord at the union’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Delegates from both sides attended the ceremony, including the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, envoy Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Wasel, and deputy governor of the NCA for international cooperation, Majid bin Mohammed Al-Mazyed.
The program launch will reinforce Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s international initiative to protect children in the cyberworld, announced in February at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh.
The agreement will focus on developing best practices, policies, and programs to protect children against increasing cyber threats targeting them while using the internet. It will also provide guidance on keeping children safe in cyberspace via at least 50 global training programs offered in the UN’s official languages of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
More than 500 open consultation sessions will be held to follow up on the implementation of the program.
Trainers around the world will be advised on how to implement guidance and develop mobile apps and entertaining educational games that would contribute
to achieving the aims of the scheme.
The program will also support countries in evaluating, developing, and improving relevant policies, launching awareness campaigns, enriching discussions on child protection in developing nations, and establishing task forces to help countries set up child protection programs.
ITU secretary-general, Houlin Zhao, praised the Kingdom’s role in supporting international activities to protect children in cyberspace.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia among top 10 countries in digital literacy: WEF report

Time: 17 December 2020

The report recognized the importance of digital transformation in the recovery of countries. (File/Shutterstock)
  • The Global Competitiveness Report this year focused on how countries are adapting to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia ranked among the top ten countries in digital literacy in a report by the World Economic Forum, the Saudi Press Agency has reported.
The Kingdom joins other developed nations in the list of countries whose “active population possess sufficient digital skills,” including Singapore, Denmark, and Finland leading the pack.
The Global Competitiveness Report this year focused on how countries are adapting to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report recognized the importance of digital transformation in the recovery of countries, particularly noting four factors including digital legal framework and the flexibility of work arrangements.
“The impact of the pandemic crisis should serve as a wake-up call for countries that need to embrace the digitalization process, incentivize companies to move towards digital business models, and invest in ICT development and digital skills,” the report said.

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Saudi Arabia improves rank in Global Knowledge Index


Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Kingdom has been ranked in 42nd place out of 138 countries in the Global Knowledge Index. The UN index measures education, research and development and innovation around the world.
Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh said that the ranking represented important progress compared to previous years, where the Kingdom had advanced 10 and 24 places compared to its rankings in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
Al-Sheikh said: “The Kingdom has made a quantum leap in this indicator at the international level in seven areas, namely pre-university education, technical and vocational education and training, higher education, research development and innovation, information and communications technology (ICT), economy and enabling environments.” He added: “The Kingdom’s overall index (50.9) is nearly four points higher than the international average, with an international average of 46.7.”
The minister underlined that the achievement came at a time when education continues to achieve globally advanced positions according to international indicators, thanks to the support that the Saudi leadership accords to the education sector so as to achieve global leadership.
Al-Sheikh said that the Kingdom scored 68.5 in the field of technical and vocational education and training index, while the international average was 50.8.
In the research and innovation index it scored 29.7, while the international index averaged 26. The Kingdom’s index in the higher education surpassed the international index by one point, scoring 41.3 against 40.3.

This article was first published in Arab News

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