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

12/01/21

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.

HIGHLIGHTS

• 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

11/12/20

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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Saudi Arabia in top 20 list for coronavirus research globally

Time: 08 December 2020

A Saudi nurse checks a patient’s temperature at a mobile clinic catering for the residents of Ajyad Almasafi district in the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
  • Saudi researcher discovers low-cost early detection method for COVID-19

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s commitment to global research on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spans several fields, with one receiving a US patent and trademark for early detection methods.

According to Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia was ranked first in the Arab world and 17th globally for Saudi universities’ efforts to publish research on COVID-19, accounting for 1.8 percent of global research production.
Drawn from the Kingdom’s MERS experience, a number of COVID-19-related scientific findings and publications were readied and published in record time.
An innovative COVID-19 detection and diagnostic method by one Saudi researcher was registered at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The method uses a low-cost technology and produces results in record time, without using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis.
Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Hani Abdullah Al-Hadrami, a consultant and associate professor of molecular diagnostics and medical biotechnology at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, explained that the idea behind his innovation focuses on the development of an economical, sensitive and rapid diagnostic platform for the detection of COVID-19.
“The novel platform is a simple diagnostic sensor that can be used by unskilled personnel, such as nurses in the field, or that can be employed in a physician’s office,” Al-Hadrami said. Explaining the method, he said that the sample is directly applied to a sensing platform without the use of any processing equipment and is low in cost, compared to PCR analysis. This technology replaces the need for specialized laboratories and devices to detect COVID-19. It can also be carried to public places where tests and results can be ready in a few minutes.

FASTFACT

An innovative COVID-19 detection and diagnostic method by one Saudi researcher was registered at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The method uses a low-cost technology and produces results in record time, without using PCR analysis.

“The technology requires neither medical experts nor specialized laboratories to operate it. It is easy to use in airports, for example, to examine pilgrims who come to visit Makkah and Madinah before they can reach the holy sites. It would be useful during Hajj and in any public places where people normally gather in large numbers,” he added. “We have identified and validated a probe, which is specific for COVID-19 and which will be integrated with conventional and commercially available fluorometers to be used as a screening assay to make it durable and portable so it can be carried in hospital emergency rooms and clinics.”

Al-Hadrami pointed out that the proposed platform will offer a low-detection limit that will meet the infectious dose and eliminate laborious lab-processing techniques.
“It will encourage the development of new technology that provides low-cost, in-situ testing to facilitate treatment, both saving time and enabling the correct action to be taken with minimal interventions,” he said.
Al-Hadrami noted that this integrated approach will result in cost-efficient, rapid and accurate detection of COVID-19 with immediate, targeted treatment, eliminating the need for any sample processing.
“This innovation will show the whole world that Saudis, like any other scientists in developed countries, have contributed to finding innovative solutions for the detection and diagnosis of COVID-19,” he said.
“This will greatly help in controlling the virus and preventing its spread by identifying infected people. When manufactured and produced, this technology will make a great return on the local national economy as it is exported to countries across the world,” he said in a tweet.

This article was first published in Arab News

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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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