Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast

18/10/20

Lino Cattaruzzi, managing director for Google in MENA. (Supplied)

  • The program includes cloud training for local businesses, as well as workshops on advanced digital skills, such as a machine learning platform that will teach about 140,000 developers with a focus on women

DUBAI: Several Saudi ministries have teamed up with tech giant Google to launch a set of projects aimed at helping the Kingdom’s economic strategy and digital transformation.

Google said the initiatives will focus on Saudi Arabia and the MENA region and will boost economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic. The program, named “Grow stronger with Google,” will include a comprehensive list of digital tools, grants and training opportunities to support local businesses and job seekers across the region. In the Kingdom, Google will target the retail, tourism and technology sectors, including Saudi Post, which will list 100,000 local entities on the company’s digital platform and train employees in online marketing.
“We are proud to partner with Google in this initiative to bring value to Saudi nationals, residents and local businesses, especially SMEs through bringing them together using the Google ‘My Business’ platform,” said President of the Saudi Post Anef Abanomi.
“Through this partnership we aim to list up to 100,000 businesses in the first phase in line with Saudi Post’s strategic transformation objectives to improve quality of life and help SMEs achieve their e-commerce and digitization goals,” he added.
Lino Cattaruzzi, managing director for Google in MENA, said in a press release: “During the pandemic, online tools have been a lifeline for many in Saudi Arabia. Making the most of the online opportunity can help Saudi people, businesses and communities and in the wider region bounce back stronger.” He said the program will equip businesses and individuals in the Kingdom with digital skills, especially in sectors that have been most affected by the pandemic, such as retail and tourism.

HIGHLIGHT

In the Kingdom, Google will target the retail, tourism and technology sectors, including Saudi Post, which will list 100,000 local entities on the company’s digital platform and train employees in online marketing.

The tech giant has also partnered with several Saudi bodies — including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Tourism — to implement the programs. One project is set to train 50,000 students and businesses in digital marketing.
“We remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of this region, and we’re confident that by working together with local partners, we can boost recovery and build on the rapid acceleration of tech adoption we’ve seen during the crisis,” Cattaruzzi said.
The program also includes cloud training for local businesses, as well as workshops on advanced digital skills, such as a machine learning platform that will teach about 140,000 developers with a focus on women.
Google said it wants to help 1 million people and businesses throughout the MENA region learn digital skills and grow businesses by the end of 2021.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi megaproject NEOM to build world’s smartest city

Time: 13 October 2020  

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport signed an MoU with NEOM to help it become a global destination for sporting activities. (SPA)
  • The NEOM CEO said the cooperation with the Sports Ministry aims to create a vibrant environment to attract global talent from around the world

RIYADH: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and NEOM CEO Nazmi Al-Nasr signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh on Monday.
The ministry will cooperate with NEOM to help the world’s smartest city become a global destination for various physical and electronic sports.
The sports minister vowed to continue the development of the sports industry in the Kingdom. He said the Kingdom is working relentlessly to ensure a sustainable environment for athletes.
The NEOM CEO said the cooperation with the Sports Ministry aims to create a vibrant environment to attract global talent from around the world.
He said investments in the sports sector are growing significantly in the Kingdom.
“The memorandum will allow exploring all possible opportunities and building sports entities that will help empower the Saudi youth and NEOM resident,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi wind farm’s progress heralds a new era in clean energy

Time: 06 October 2020  

Saudi Arabia has moved a step closer to becoming the Middle East’s pace-setter in green energy and sustainability, with the delivery of the first consignment of turbines for a 400-megawatt wind-power plant. (Shutterstock))
  • Key construction milestone crossed with delivery of 20 turbines for Kingdom’s utility-scale wind farm in Al-Jouf
  • Kingdom’s renewable energy sector could create up to 750,000 jobs over the next decade, say business leaders

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has moved a step closer to becoming the Middle East’s pace-setter in green energy and sustainability, with the delivery of the first consignment of turbines for a 400-megawatt wind-power plant.

Manufactured by the Danish company Vestas, 20 turbines for the $500 million Dumat Al-Jandal wind farm arrived recently at Duba port.

Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale wind-power source, Dumat Al-Jandal is being developed by a consortium led by EDF Renewables of France in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Masdar. Once operational, it will the largest wind farm in the Middle East.

Construction work commenced last August and commercial operations are due to start in the first quarter of 2022. Masdar and EDF Renewables respectively own 49 and 51 percent of the Dumat Al-Jandal project.

“We are proud to be among the first contributors to the Kingdom’s clean energy transition, working in collaboration with Nesma Holding,” said Yousif Al-Ali, executive director of Masdar. “When operational, Dumat Al-Jandal will displace 885,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, while generating electricity to power 70,000 homes.”

The turbines comprise towers, blades and nacelles, which will be assembled at the project site, 900 kilometers north of Riyadh in the Al-Jouf region. The project will include 99 Vestas wind turbines, each with a hub height of 130 meters and rotor diameter of 150 meters.

Vestas, which has over 40 years of experience in the wind industry and 115 gigawatts of installed capacity worldwide, brings expertise to support the region in its transition to a decarbonized and decentralized energy system.

Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale wind-power source, Dumat Al-Jandal is being developed by a consortium led by EDF Renewables of France in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Masdar. (Supplied/Masdar)

“Saudi Arabia is ready to make that transition and to become a beacon of green energy and sustainability for the rest of its neighboring countries to follow suit,” said Muhamed Bou-Zeid, general manager of Vestas Middle East and North Africa.

He described the delivery of the first batch of wind turbines as a major milestone in Dumat Al-Jandal’s development as well as in Saudi Arabia’s National Renewable Energy Program.

“The ongoing progress at the wind farm site has largely been made possible by the Kingdom and its governmental authorities, which have graciously and wholeheartedly supported the consortium under the auspices of the National Renewable Energy Program,” he told Arab News.

The Renewable Energy Project Development Office of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy awarded the project to the EDF Renewables-Masdar consortium in January 2019 after a competitive tender.

INNUMBERS

Saudi Wind Farms

* 400MW Capacity of Dumal Al-Jandal plan.

* $500m Estimated investment.

* 2019 Start of project construction.

* 16GW KSA’s wind-energy target for 2030.

Its tariff of $21.3 per megawatt-hour (MWh), the lowest bid submitted, was reduced to $19.9/MWh at financial close, making Dumat Al-Jandal the most cost-efficient wind-energy project in the world.

“Not only will Dumat Al-Jandal provide power to support the Kingdom’s economic growth plans, but it will deliver valuable employment, training and economic opportunities to Saudis, especially in Al-Jouf,” Al-Ali said. “The project will advance Saudization goals of employing Saudi nationals and leave a positive impact on Al-Jouf.”

Materials for the farm will be bought locally, creating employment and training opportunities for Saudis to develop expertise and technological knowledge. “In this way, the project will help accelerate the Kingdom’s transition to a knowledge-based economy,” he added.

According to the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, the development of Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy sector could create up to 750,000 jobs over the next decade, as the Kingdom pushes to generate 7 percent of its total electricity output from renewables by 2030.

It will also benefit from a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Saudi Power Procurement Company, a subsidiary of the Saudi Electricity Company, the Kingdom’s power generation and distribution company.

Renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, are planned across more than 35 parks in Saudi Arabia by 2030. (AFP via Getty Images/File Photo)

“Dumat Al-Jandal is committed to achieving a lasting positive community impact through procuring skills and materials in Saudi Arabia, supporting local jobs and businesses, and accelerating knowledge transfer,” said Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar.

Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy program aims to contribute to a sustainable future, preserve non-renewable fossil fuel resources and safeguard the Kingdom’s international energy leadership, according to the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. That way, the program aims to ensure greater long-term global energy market stability.

Renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, are planned across more than 35 parks in Saudi Arabia by 2030. “The Kingdom is blessed with an abundance of energy sources such as wind, sun and fossil fuels,” Al-Ali said.

“Such a diversified supply of energy can be used strategically to generate significant returns. For example, if solar and wind energy technologies can be used to generate electricity, the Kingdom can benefit by using fossil fuels in other applications that enhance economic performance.”

The project is aligned “perfectly” with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, as it would significantly increase the contribution of renewable energy within the country’s overall energy mix and foster diversification of energy resources, Al-Ali said.

The Renewable Energy Project Development Office of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy awarded the project to the EDF Renewables-Masdar consortium in January 2019 after a competitive tender. (Supplied/Masdar)

Osama bin Abdulwahab Khawandanah, chief executive officer of the Saudi Power Procurement Company, responsible for purchasing the entire output, said Dumat Al-Jandal was its first wind-energy project that would produce electricity at scale.

“As a key project under the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative, it is playing a crucial role in diversifying Saudi Arabia’s power mix sustainably,” he said. “The wind farm reflects our strong partnership with the private sector and the commercial viability of wind energy. This enables us to establish a competitive renewable energy sector in the Kingdom while reducing our carbon emissions in line with Vision 2030.”

Masdar continues to advance strategic projects to support the country’s renewable energy sector. At the beginning of 2019, the organization had set a target of doubling its renewable capacity — then at 4 gigawatts — within five years. With key projects such as Dumat-Al Jandal, it now expects to exceed that target before the end of 2020 ­— that is, within two years.

“There is no doubt that the Saudi market is one of the most important, not only in the region but globally,” Al-Ali told Arab News. “The Saudi market is highly attractive to clean energy developers because it is characterized by sufficient flexibility and attractive policies, which let developers submit competitive tenders and bids.”

Masdar has submitted proposals for other solar and wind-energy projects across Saudi Arabia, he said. “This reflects our commitment to the Saudi market and our confidence in the Kingdom’s ability to become a hub for large-scale renewable energy projects that are commercially viable.”

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How Saudi Arabia is emerging as a MENA cloud-data hub

27/09/20

Saudis attend the second International Cyber Security Conference, in Riyadh on February 27, 2017. (AFP/File Photo)
  • American information technology firm Oracle’s cloud data center is one of 20 global offices of its kind
  • Focus is on digital security technologies and innovations including virtual simulation of evolving threats

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is one step closer to becoming a global cloud-data hub with the launch of a data center by Oracle, a leading computer technology corporation based in the US. The Kingdom has been designated as the company’s cloud-data hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The center in Jeddah will focus on digital security technologies and innovations, including virtual simulation of evolving threats. It is yet another step in Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation, in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goal of upgrading the country’s information and communications technology infrastructure.

In emailed comments to Arab News, Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, CEO of the Washington-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research and cybersecurity professor at King Saud University, said: “Being one of the leading and fastest-growing digital powers in the region, Saudi Arabia is in great need of technological innovations, solutions and services to cater to its requirements for smart cities, industry 4.0, cloud computing, 5G, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.

Participants attend a hackathon in Jeddah on August 1, 2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP/File Photo)

“To meet this massive demand for digital transformation by public- and private-sector organizations, the cloud data center by Oracle in the Kingdom will play a pivotal role in accelerating innovation, generating new horizons of digital services, creating competition and providing customers with incredible experiences in the thriving market.”

He believes the move will also pave the way for job creation and spawn new business opportunities for local talent. “The presence of the cloud data center in the Kingdom will enable organizations to scale up their digital services faster than ever before,” Khan wrote in the email. “It may also provide them with cheaper in-country services, better data management, a more secure and resilient environment, data sovereignty controls, and on-demand customer service for more efficient business operations.”

Khan cited additional likely benefits from the center, including the empowerment of local start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators enabling new products and services to enter the market faster.

A person works at a computer during the 10th International Cybersecurity Forum in Lille on January 23, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

“The development could underpin the efforts of Saudi Arabia to be among the leading nations that are bracing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Khan pointed to skyrocketing demand for cybersecurity solutions and services in the Kingdom — which ranks in the top 10 countries most targeted by “significant” cyberattacks. “Cyber threats faced by public- and private-sector organizations are growing exponentially due to the Kingdom’s geopolitical importance in the region and its fast-paced digital transformation,” he said.

A recent report on the cybersecurity sector in the Middle East and Africa estimates that Saudi Arabia’s market may grow to $5.5 billion by 2023. “This huge cybersecurity demand could be efficiently met by the local deployment of cloud-based cybersecurity services,” Khan said. “The role of cloud computing is of paramount importance to predicting and defeating cyberattacks, which leverages AI, big data and instant analytics in real time to address threats and suppress vulnerabilities that seek to undermine security.”

People work on computers on January 22, 2019 in Lille, during the 11th International Cybersecurity Forum. (AFP/File Photo)

In his comments, Khan further pointed to the interest shown by regional and local organizations in the cloud-based security operations center, and cost-effective solutions for security orchestration, automation and response, security information, and event management.

The move is timely too, as a new report revealed that 95 percent of businesses in the Kingdom have been hit by at least one cyberattack in the past year. According to “The Rise of the Business-Aligned Security Executive,” released by Tenable and conducted by Forrester Consulting, the majority of businesses in Saudi Arabia have witnessed a rise in cyberattacks over the past two years.

“More than ever, Saudi Arabia must make a specific tailor-made solution for its sovereign requirements to include digital security and virtual simulation,” said Matthew Cochran, CEO and co-founder of URS Laboratories in the UAE. “Post COVID-19, the region will look to the Kingdom for alignment and leadership on these issues.”

He described the developments as the culmination of decades of planning for scenarios that are becoming increasingly likely due to global circumstances.

“Pre COVID-19, the future of digital security and virtual simulation in the region was important,” Cochran told Arab News. “Now, it is vitally important, if not life-saving, to have it in place — not tomorrow, today. The future is at stake and we must meet the challenges together.”

Commentators have said that the Saudi center will allow Oracle to facilitate in-country or in-jurisdiction disaster-recovery capabilities and allow their clients to meet their obligations on data security in the country.

“Oracle has a strong presence within the GCC region, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Dean Mikkelsen, an independent IT and cybersecurity consultant working with UAE-based Hannibal Global Insight. “Companies are moving more and more data to the cloud within the GCC. These nations also require that data be kept within their own country, as it relates to privacy and data-security issues.

In the Kingdom, provisions in the Cloud Computing Regulatory Framework state that cloud clients must ensure that no customer content — including sensitive content from public authorities — is transferred outside the Kingdom.

“The Essential Cybersecurity Controls issued by the National Cybersecurity Authority in the Kingdom — which are all applicable to Saudi government entities — require that information be hosted and stored in-country,” Mikkelsen told Arab News. “With Oracle developing this capability in-country, they are meeting the requirements necessary to protect data in the nation.”

Saudi Arabia is one step closer to becoming a global cloud-data hub with the launch of a regional data center by Oracle, a leading computer technology corporation based in the US. (AFP/File Photo)

As Saudi Arabia continues to move away from a petroleum-based economy, it has allowed its technology sectors more room for growth.

“With Oracle moving further into Saudi Arabia, it matches the Kingdom’s vision to become an international leader in science and technology,” said Mikkelsen. “There has been, over the past few years, a large-scale migration of data to the cloud and making sure that data is secure is very important.”

He said data breaches are becoming more widespread, be they from phishing attacks or malware, in a potentially costly development for businesses. UAE-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter recently stated that breaches are “widespread and frequently undetected” in the Middle East.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in network spoofing and phishing attacks, as cyber attackers look to exploit the unfamiliar current climate for their own nefarious purposes,” Mikkelsen said.

“Through regulatory environments and legislation, such as those defined in Saudi Arabia or the UAE, companies and governments are working together to protect the digital assets of individuals, corporations, and their critical infrastructure. With the move made by Oracle in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is saying it is open for business and that anyone’s data will be safe and secure.”

——————–

Twitter: @CalineMalek

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Saudi government agency receives top European award for quality

Time: 19 August, 2020

GAZT is taking several measures to boost its institutional performance and provide citizens the necessary support to fulfill their zakat and tax obligations. (File/AFP)
  • The General Authority of Zakat and Tax was awarded for its commitment to the standards of the European Institutional Excellence Model

The General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) has received a top European award for its commitment to the standards of the European Institutional Excellence Model.

The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) awarded the authority the “Committed to Excellence 2 Star” award.

EFQM is a not-for-profit membership foundation in Brussels, established in 1989 to increase the competitiveness of the European economy.

GAZT Gov. Suhail bin Mohammed Abanmi said the authority is making all efforts to ensure best management practices and to raise the professional competence of its employees.

He said GAZT is taking several measures to boost its institutional performance and provide citizens the necessary support to fulfill their zakat and tax obligations without any hassles.

The authority recently received two certificates from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for affirming the effectiveness of quality control systems and for dealing with complaints and increasing customer satisfaction.

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Saudi railway wins international award for safety measures

14/08/20

Saudi Railways

SAR accords top priority to the culture of safety in the management, operation and maintenance of its trains by following international laws, says CEO(SPA)

RIYADH:  The Saudi Railways Co. (SAR) won the International Safety Award for 2020 from the British Safety Council for the second time in a row for its exemplary management of health, safety and environmental risks.

CEO of SAR Dr. Bashar bin Khalid Al-Malik said that the company puts at the forefront of its strategic plans the application of the highest safety standards in operating the rail network in the Kingdom.

He said that SAR accords top priority to the culture of safety in the management, operation and maintenance of its trains by following international laws that have proven effective in ensuring safety in the work environment.

Al-Malik said: “We are proud that SAR wins such international awards, which reflect the efforts and decisions taken to apply and develop health and safety measures.”

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Saudi-backed electric car breaks 500-mile barrier

Time: 13 August, 2020

Customer deliveries of the Lucid Air, which will be produced at Lucid’s new factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, will begin in early 2021. (Supplied)
  • Public Investment Fund backing bears fruit as Lucid Air all-electric sedan covers 517 miles on a single charge

LONDON: A Saudi-backed electric vehicle has broken through the 500-mile range barrier from a single charge as global manufacturers race to extend battery life.

Lucid Motors, in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is a major investor, on Wednesday announced independent range verification of 517 miles on a single charge for its forthcoming Lucid Air all-electric sedan.

The car maker claims that the results confirm that the Lucid Air is the longest-range electric vehicle to date.

So-called “range anxiety,” where drivers fear being stranded without power in their cars, is a high priority for electric vehicle manufacturers in convincing people to make the switch from traditional gasoline-fueled vehicles.

“Range and efficiency are widely recognized as the most relevant proof points by which EV technical prowess is measured,” said Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson.

“A few years ago we revealed our alpha prototypes of the Lucid Air and promised over 400 miles range; a reflection of our technology at that time. In the intervening period we have achieved a series of technological breakthroughs, culminating in an unsurpassed degree of energy efficiency.”

The PIF agreed a $1 billion investment deal with Lucid Motors two years ago to develop the car at a factory in Arizona. The plant initially will have an annual capacity of 34,000 vehicles, building toward 360,000 about seven years later.

The production version of the Lucid Air will debut in an online event on Sept. 9, 2020.

In addition to the vehicle’s final interior and exterior designs, new details about production specifications, available configurations, and pricing information will also be shared. Customer deliveries will begin in early 2021.

Range is one of the biggest factors for consumers mulling the purchase of an electric vehicle, which is why manufacturers such as Elon Musk’s Tesla are investing heavily in battery technology.

China’s CATL which supplies Tesla, said on Wednesday that it was also working on a new technology allowing battery cells to be integrated into a vehicle’s chassis which would allow range to be extended to more than 500 miles.

Sales of electric cars topped 2.1 million globally in 2019, to boost the total stock to 7.2 million electric cars, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Consultancy Deloitte expects electric vehicle sales to rise from 4 million in 2020 to 21 million in 2030.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Maraya hall in historic AlUlawins major architecture prize

Time: 05 August, 2020

The cube-shaped structure is covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking surrounding landscape. (Supplied)
  • Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category and was named the 2020 popular choice winner.

RIYADH: Maraya, a concert and entertainment venue in AIUIa, northwest Saudi Arabia, has won one of the world’s biggest architecture awards.

The Architizer A+ Awards — hosted by New York-based community Architizer.com, a 7-million-plus online group of leading architects — consists of five peer-judged finalists, with one jury winner and one popular choice winner in each category. The awards promote and celebrate the year’s best architecture.

A finalist in the Architecture + Glass category, Maraya was selected by distinguished figures from industries including design, technology, real estate and fashion. Finalists were selected for excellence in architecture with criteria based on form, function, and impact.

Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category and was named the 2020 popular choice winner.

Philip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer at the Royal Commission for AIUIa (RCU), welcomed the announcement, saying that although Maraya is closed for renovation, the venue will be have a key role when AIUIa reopens to visitors as a year-round destination in late 2020.

“It’s particularly gratifying to win the popular vote. Visitors are mesmerized by Maraya’s impact and the way it blends in so perfectly with its surroundings.

“Maraya has been conceived and designed in line with the RCU’s core values to develop AIUIa using a sensitive and responsible approach. AIUIa is a significant archaeological wonder and we look forward to welcoming the world when we reopen the sites,” he added.

The cube-shaped structure is covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking surrounding landscape.

The building and its extraordinary facade were unveiled at a special ceremony staged by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival. The 500-seat venue has since hosted leading international artists, including Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

It achieved a Guinness World Record for being the largest mirrored building in the world in 2019 with its 26-meter-high theater.

Maraya’s giant retractable window of more than 800 square meters can open to offer an experience blending nature and entertainment.

Maraya means mirrors in Arabic. The building, designed by Florian Bole and architect Massimo Fogliati, of Gio Forma, Milan, was inspired by the surrounding landscape.

The site was recently used a location for commercial film shoots by luxury brands including Cartier, Rolls-Royce and Monot.

Maraya is located 12 km from Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, Hegra.

The venue is undergoing further renovations, including increased capacity, a dedicated conference floor, a ground-floor restaurant and a stunning rooftop terrace overlooking the Ashar valley, oasis and desert surroundings.

Maraya will be well-positioned to host regional and international business events, conferences, weddings and other special events when it reopens for business in late 2020.

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Neom could become the first ‘health tech’ capital of the world

20/07/20

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has catalyzed the digital transformation in the health care sector. As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, NEOM, the Kingdom’s futuristic smart city and Vision’s centerpiece, has an unprecedented opportunity to become the first health technology (health tech) capital of the world, and a global hub for innovation and cooperation in health and wellness technology.
This year will be recalled in the history of health tech as the equivalent of a decade of digital transformation, such is the speed with which the sector is responding to demand at every level. The COVID-19 pandemic has given health tech companies the chance to show what they are able to do, and accelerated the uptake of digital health solutions in ways hitherto unseen. The technologies being developed, tested and rolled out today are helping not only in the present, but will shape the future of health care across the world for years.
Even before COVID-19, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region’s young, digitally savvy population had already showed a readiness to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics for their health care needs. According to a 2017 PwC report titled “What doctor? Why AI and robotics will define New Health,” two-thirds of Middle Eastern and North African consumers said they were willing to replace human clinicians with AI and robots, with the highest proportion, 66 percent, in Saudi Arabia.
The region already fosters a number of homegrown champions, such as Saudi-born Nala, the region’s fastest-growing health tech company and the world’s first AI platform to offer instant access to medical diagnoses in Arabic. With health care being one of the strategic pillars of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, Saudi Arabia has the opportunity to offer the world its first true health tech capital at NEOM.
From laboratories specializing in stem cell therapy to innovation centers studying the human genome project, NEOM is ushering in a new era of modern medicine, leading to countless effective treatments and therapies. From companies leading the way in remote monitoring and tele-health, to innovative AI-powered assessment apps and platforms, meanwhile, the world is witnessing an unprecedented upsurge of momentum in the health tech sector, which represents a unique opportunity for Saudi Arabia and NEOM’s model for the new future.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, as a key forum for coordination of policy and action within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals, has a strategic role to play in shaping Saudi Arabia’s path toward becoming a global health tech hub. Initiatives such as the recent “Beyond The Crisis: Technology to the Rescue” series demonstrate its role as the curator of the global conversation on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Yet it is at NEOM where the Kingdom possesses an extraordinary platform to showcase global innovations that blend health care, well-being and technology together in a way that pushes the boundaries of what is possible.
NEOM’s futuristic model, that includes the presence of major tech-driven companies, represents a vast opportunity to host a major health tech hub and attract not only innovative entrepreneurs from across the GCC but also from across the world. It also offers the opportunity to showcase and scale-up the increasing number of domestic champions such as Sihatech, the Riyadh-based health care tech start-up that offers a cloud-based Hospital Information System to support the digitization efforts of the National Digital Transformation Unit and the Saudi Ministry of Health. NEOM is the key to cementing Saudi Arabia’s position as a health tech hub and provides a magnet for the talent needed to foster it.
The proposed NEOM HealthTech Hub will see year-long initiatives built around partnerships and collaboration agreements with other research institutions such as the Center of Excellence for NEOM Research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. FII, an annual conference which has now become an institute for innovation, had a strong message at last year’s global summit: We are open for innovation.

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Digital library opens new chapter in Saudi Arabia

Time: 19 July, 2020

The library contains 446,044 digital books. (Shutterstock)
  • The library seeks to become the largest assembly of digital knowledge sources in the Middle East in terms of size and type of resources

RIYADH: The Saudi Digital Library at the Ministry of Education provides 169 databases in a range of academic fields to help researchers, students and others across the Kingdom.
Public and private universities, teachers and scholarship students are among those benefiting from the library’s digital services, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
The library seeks to become the largest assembly of digital knowledge sources in the Middle East in terms of size and type of resources.
More than 65 entities have benefited from the service to date.
The library contains 446,044 digital books, 60,000 scientific journals, 6,548,350 research and conference papers, 5,224,410 university theses, and 3,061,669 scientific reports, in addition to 461,004 multimedia that includes images and scientific films in various disciplines, as well as more than 12,000,000 scientific subjects in information assets owned by the library.
Recent statistics show that there are more than 2.2 million beneficiaries of the library services.

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