UN chief expresses hope that Saudi-Iranian talks will help ease regional tensions

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 September 2022

UN chief expresses hope that Saudi-Iranian talks will help ease regional tensions

  • Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Arab News he is certain the Kingdom, the UAE and other Gulf nations have an active role to play in promoting peace in Syria, Yemen and Libya
  • The ‘climate carnage’ in Pakistan shows that the global response to the climate crisis is inadequate, he said, and demonstrates the ‘betrayal and injustice’ that lies at the heart of it

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday expressed hope that talks underway between authorities in Saudi Arabia and Iran will help to ease tensions in the Gulf region.
“I hope that the dialogue that started between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and other forms of dialogue in the region, will produce results and will allow a reduction of the tension in the Gulf,” he told Arab News.
It came as he reflected on the role the Kingdom, the UAE other Gulf nations can play in tackling global crises — including food insecurity, climate-related emergencies and energy shortages — and regional conflicts such as those in Syria, Yemen, Libya and between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I am sure that (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the entire Gulf Cooperation Council) will be quite active in relation to the promotion of peaceful solutions in their neighborhood: In Syria, Libya, Yemen or in any other country that is close to them,” said Guterres.
“I think the people of Syria, the people of Libya, the people of Yemen have already suffered too much. And my appeal is for everybody to come together to solve those problems.”
The UN chief also said he hopes that “GCC countries, which have a huge capacity for production, will contribute to (resolving) the energy crisis in the world.”
Turning to the latest developments in Libya, Guterres said that the supposed ceasefire there “is not in sight.”
He added: “It’s difficult to know what is the biggest challenge that requires action. We must preserve peace between (the rival authorities in the) east and west but that also means preserving peace in relation to the recent confrontations that happened in Tripoli.
“With the militias supporting either (Government of National Unity Prime Minister Abdul Hamid) Dbeibah or (Government of National Stability leader Fathi) Bashaga, we need hostilities (to stop.) That is fundamental.”
Guterres said that legitimacy remains a problem in Libya and he called for a quick agreement between the House of Representatives in the east of the country and the High Council of State that would allow the implementation of legal changes required for national elections to take place.
He urged external actors involved in Libya to “fully support the process of reconciliation” and back the political process that could lead to the election of a “legitimate government that everybody accepts.”
Speaking on Wednesday during a news conference to mark the start of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly the previous day, Guterres, who had just returned from a visit to flood-ravaged Pakistan, prefaced his remarks with a striking message denouncing the “sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis” and urging the international community to take more-aggressive action to mitigate its effects.
Describing the ongoing “climate carnage” in Pakistan, which has so far resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 people and caused damages estimated at more than $30 billion, Guterres said his trip to the stricken country was a “window into the future.”
He added: “A future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale: Devastating loss of life, enormous human suffering, and massive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods.
“What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it. It is simply heartbreaking.
“No picture can convey the scope of this catastrophe. The flooded area is three times the size of my entire country, Portugal.”
Guterres once again pointed out that although the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause the planet to heat up and its glaciers to melt are overwhelmingly produced by the world’s richest nations, it is poorer countries such as Pakistan that bear the brunt of resultant extreme-weather events and the death and destruction they bring.
“Whether it’s Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, small islands or the least-developed countries, the world’s most vulnerable — who did nothing to cause this crisis — are paying a horrific price for decades of intransigence by big emitters,” he said.
“G20 countries are responsible for 80 percent of emissions. If one-third of G20 countries was underwater today, as it could be tomorrow, perhaps they would find it easier to agree on drastic cuts to emissions.”
He warned that continued inaction now will cause occurrences of devastating weather events to multiply in the future. The repercussions, including instability and global mass migration, will be felt “for years to come,” he added
“My message to world leaders gathering here is clear: Lower the temperature — now. Don’t flood the world today; don’t drown it tomorrow,” said Guterres.
Geopolitical divides have never been so extreme, he added, and are paralyzing efforts to address global challenges.
“Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate and shamed by poverty, hunger and inequality,” Guterres said.
The human solidarity enshrined in the words of the UN charter is “being devoured by the acids of nationalism and self-interest, shocking disregard for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world, (and) by politicians who play to people’s worst instincts, for partisan gain.”
He concluded by reiterating the importance of offering hope to people.
“This year’s general debate must be about providing hope and overcoming the divisions that are dramatically impacting the world,” Guterres said.
“That hope can only come through the dialogue and debate that are the beating heart of the United Nations and that must prevail … against all divisions.”


Saudi Arabia says tech giants to invest more than $9 billion in kingdom

Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi Arabia says tech giants to invest more than $9 billion in kingdom

  • US giants Microsoft and Oracle Corp are building cloud regions in the kingdom
  • Saudi officials have pressed international companies to move their regional headquarters to Riyadh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has attracted more than $9 billion in investments in future technologies, including by US giants Microsoft and Oracle Corp, which are building cloud regions in the kingdom, a government minister said on Monday.

Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha said Microsoft will invest $2.1 billion in a global super-scaler cloud, while Oracle has committed $1.5 billion to build a new cloud region in Riyadh.

"The investments... will enhance the kingdom of Saudi Arabia's position as the largest digital market in the Middle East and North Africa," Alswaha said at LEAP, an international technology forum taking place in Riyadh.

Alswaha did not give details on the timeframe. Oracle told Reuters the investment will be made over several years.

Saudi officials have pressed international companies to invest in the kingdom and move their regional headquarters to Riyadh in order to benefit from government contracts.

The kingdom has been pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into an economic plan, known as Vision 2030, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the aim to diversify the economy away from oil.

The minister said China's Huawei will also invest $400 million in cloud infrastructure for its services in Saudi Arabia and another cloud region in partnership with oil giant Aramco.

An additional $4.5 billion was invested in global and local assets across multiple sectors at the forum, Alswaha added.

Tonomus, a subsidiary of the $500 billion signature NEOM project of the crown prince, said last year it invested $1 billion in 2022 in AI, including a metaverse platform.

Increased demand for cloud computing has pushed technology companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon  and Alphabet's Google to set up data centres across the world to speed up data transfer.


Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-tech platform Footlab to launch in Saudi Arabia

Updated 06 February 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-tech platform Footlab to launch in Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi entertainment company Confrontation Entertainment has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with Footlab
  • At the platform, players can train, compete and keep track of their real-time performance data in a digital ecosystem

Saudi entertainment company Confrontation Entertainment has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with Footlab, a partnership by Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa.

Footlab, a cooperation between the Portuguese football legends through Ronaldo’s tech company 7EGEND, started from an idea to bring to life a blend of e-gaming, real-life football and technology. It is headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal, and opened in 2018.

At the platform, players can train, compete and keep track of their real-time performance data within different stations in the park, which are all connected in a digital ecosystem.

Footlab was designed with the next generation of football players in mind, providing players and trainers with the tools they need to measure and track performance in real time and use that information to create personalized development.

The technology behind it was developed in-house by Sports Scientists, a team of software and hardware engineers, UX designers, AI and data experts, to deliver the world’s leading football data-driven experience.

Luis Parafita, Footlab world CEO, expressed his gratitude for entering the Saudi market through this agreement. “Sports is an integral component of Saudi Arabia’s transformative Vision 2030, and we are thankful for the unconditional support of our partners and the perfect timing to launch Footlab in all (of the) Kingdom, having Cristiano here and world attention for what lies ahead.”

“Footlab aspires to change the game in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out, “with elite facilities and coaching staff dedicated to the analysis and development of players, empowering teams and groups of friends with challenges, to test and improve their cognitive, physical and technical skills.”

Ahmed Madani, Confrontation Entertainment CEO, said the growth of the sports and entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia made this an ideal time to introduce innovative projects such as Footlab in the market.

He said this partnership was aligned with the Quality of Life Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 realization projects “which encourages the private sector to contribute to the development of the entertainment and sports sector, by offering an abundance of new experiences that contribute to raising the quality of life.”


Tech giants from around the world take center-stage at Saudi Arabia’s LEAP conference

Updated 06 February 2023

Tech giants from around the world take center-stage at Saudi Arabia’s LEAP conference

  • The second edition of the event, being held over Feb 6-9, will have more than 700 tech leaders in attendance
  • LEAP’s inaugural conference broke record for largest tech event ever held, expected to be even larger this year

RIYADH: More than 700 leading experts in technology investment from 50 countries are set to speak during the second edition of the LEAP technology conference, which will take place at Riyadh Front Expo Center from Monday to Thursday.

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, and UAE-based IT services and consulting firm Tahaluf.

It aims to spark discussions on artificial intelligence, digital transformation and advancements in the field of technical and innovative entrepreneurship through immersive learning, storytelling sessions and lectures.

LEAP will shed light on artificial intelligence, digital transformation and advances in the field of technical and innovative entrepreneurship. (Supplied)

“The first edition of LEAP was surprisingly more than I expected from a debut event. I am excited to see how this edition will make an even greater impact on our industry and the creative economy,” Sujoy Cherian, group CEO of Option 1 Events, an event technology and content company, told Arab News.

“Besides speaking on the panel for future live events, I am honored with the opportunity for a solo session to share my insight on some of the latest in tech for hybrid events and content creation,” he added.

Cherian, a creative technologist and serial entrepreneur, is just one of the hundreds of speakers from more than 400 global and local technology companies speaking at the event.

Executives from Saudi Aramco, NEOM, Microsoft, Oracle, Huawei, Zoom, Ericsson and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among the roster of speakers.

International tech figures include G.V. Ravishankar, managing partner of Sequoia Capital India; Tim Ringel, an investor and advisory board member at Adit Ventures; and William Bao Bean, general partner of venture capital firm SOSV.

Executives from leading firms such as Saudi Aramco, NEOM, Microsoft, Oracle, Huawei, Zoom, Ericsson and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are set to deliver speeches during the conference.

Some of the world’s leading tech figures will take to the Investor Stage, including G.V. Ravishankar, the managing partner of Sequoia Capital India, Tim Ringel, an investor and advisory board member at Adit Ventures, and William Bao Bean, general partner of venture capital firm SOSV.

The tech conference will be held in Riyadh. (Supplied/LEAP)

Former world boxing champion Anthony Joshua, astronaut Susan Kilrain and West Ham United Football Club vice-chairman Karren Brady will also speak at the conference.

Some of the talks set to take place at LEAP will shed light on the creative economy, education, retail, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, future energy, smart cities, and health tech.

One of the companies that will discuss the creative economy during one of the many orbital talks is Sparkup, a real-time engagement platform for live streams and hybrid events. “Our experience combines virtual audience technology and interactive live streaming to offer attendees a front-row seat on an event and allow them to react in real-time,” Vincent Bruneau, founder and CEO of Sparkup, told Arab News.

The company is working toward scaling and integrating its real-time engagement platform, bringing the concept into different environments. “It’s quite exciting because virtual and hybrid events are becoming very popular, people are now used to it and it forces you to innovate, to level up your game and imagine what should the next experience be like,” Bruneau said.

The investors’ platform is expected to witness multiple investment deals with global tech industries.


Tech giants from around the world take center-stage at Saudi Arabia’s LEAP conference 

Updated 06 February 2023

Tech giants from around the world take center-stage at Saudi Arabia’s LEAP conference 

  • Second edition of the event, being held over Feb. 6-9, to have more than 700 leaders in technology and tech investment in attendance
  • LEAP’s inaugural conference broke the record for largest tech event ever held, with this year looking to be even larger

RIYADH: More than 700 leading experts in technology investment from 50 countries are set to speak during the second edition of the LEAP technology conference, which will take place at Riyadh Front Expo Center from Monday to Thursday.

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, and UAE-based IT services and consulting firm Tahaluf.

It aims to spark discussions on artificial intelligence, the digital transformation and advancements in the field of technical and innovative entrepreneurship through immersive learning, storytelling sessions and lectures.

LEAP will shed light on artificial intelligence, digital transformation and advances in the field of technical and innovative entrepreneurship. (Supplied)

“The first edition of LEAP was surprisingly more than I expected from a debut event. I am excited to see how this edition will make an even greater impact on our industry and the creative economy,” Sujoy Cherian, group CEO of Option 1 Events, an event technology and content company, told Arab News.

“Besides speaking on the panel for future live events, I am honored with the opportunity for a solo session to share my insight on some of the latest in tech for hybrid events and content creation,” he added.

Cherian, a creative technologist and serial entrepreneur, is just one of the hundreds of speakers from more than 400 global and local technology companies speaking at the event.

HIGHLIGHTS

Executives from Saudi Aramco, NEOM, Microsoft, Oracle, Huawei, Zoom, Ericsson and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among the roster of speakers.

International tech figures include G.V. Ravishankar, managing partner of Sequoia Capital India; Tim Ringel, an investor and advisory board member at Adit Ventures; and William Bao Bean, general partner of venture capital firm SOSV.

Former world boxing champion Anthony Joshua, astronaut Susan Kilrain and West Ham United Football Club vice-chairman Karren Brady to also speak at LEAP.

Executives from leading firms such as Saudi Aramco, NEOM, Microsoft, Oracle, Huawei, Zoom, Ericsson and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are set to deliver speeches during the conference.

Some of the world’s leading tech figures will take to the Investor Stage, including G.V. Ravishankar, the managing partner of Sequoia Capital India, Tim Ringel, an investor and advisory board member at Adit Ventures, and William Bao Bean, general partner of venture capital firm SOSV.

The tech conference will be held in Riyadh. (Supplied/LEAP)

Former world boxing champion Anthony Joshua, astronaut Susan Kilrain and West Ham United Football Club vice-chairman Karren Brady will also speak at the conference.

Some of the talks set to take place at LEAP will shed light on the creative economy, education, retail, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, future energy, smart cities, and health tech.

One of the companies that will discuss the creative economy during one of the many orbital talks is Sparkup, a real-time engagement platform for live streams and hybrid events. “Our experience combines virtual audience technology and interactive live streaming to offer attendees a front-row seat on an event and allow them to react in real-time,” Vincent Bruneau, founder and CEO of Sparkup, told Arab News.

The company is working toward scaling and integrating its real-time engagement platform, bringing the concept into different environments. “It’s quite exciting because virtual and hybrid events are becoming very popular, people are now used to it and it forces you to innovate, to level up your game and imagine what should the next experience be like,” Bruneau said.

The investors’ platform is expected to witness multiple investment deals with global tech industries.

 


LEAP conference set to showcase Saudi Arabia’s tech and entrepreneurial ambitions

Updated 06 February 2023

LEAP conference set to showcase Saudi Arabia’s tech and entrepreneurial ambitions

  • Over 100,000 innovators, investors and experts from around the world descending on Riyadh for four-day event 
  • LEAP will be co-located with DeepFest, an AI event organized by Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence

RIYADH: Artificial intelligence, digital economy, and digital metaverses may be terms the average technology aficionado expects to hear at a conference in Seoul or Silicon Valley. This week, however, all things tech will be the talk of the town in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

From Feb. 6 to 9, over 100,000 tech innovators and leading experts will gather for the second LEAP conference, a global platform for tech professionals from around the world.

Held alongside LEAP will be DeepFest, the inaugural AI event powered by the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence. Both events demonstrate the Kingdom’s aim to take its place among the world’s most technologically advanced nations.

The Kingdom is projected to spend over $24 billion on various technologies by 2025 — the highest in the world, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Investing in data literacy training for public sector employees ensures that data is being used effectively. (Supplied)

At last year’s LEAP conference, Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha announced that the country would be investing $6.4 billion in future technologies and entrepreneurship to further solidify the Kingdom’s position as the Middle East and North Africa region’s largest digital economy.

The growth of the Saudi tech industry, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, is a way for the Kingdom to diversify its economy away from oil and gas revenues.

According to a 2022 Economist Intelligence report, Saudi Arabia was the world’s fastest-growing major economy in 2022, “outperforming the dynamic Asian giants of China, India, Indonesia and South Korea, as well as the struggling G7 and other major emerging economies.”

LEAP broke records last year when its inaugural conference became the world’s largest tech event ever held. This year looks to be just as big, if not bigger, than last, with top professionals in the tech industry traveling to Riyadh from across the world.

“Saudi Arabia’s recent investments in its digital economy, as well as its information and communications technology sector, helped consolidate its position as the leading information and communication technology market in the Middle East and North Africa,” Imad Abuizz, digital and technology platform leader at the business management consultant firm PwC Middle East, told Arab News.

Since the announcement of Saudi Vision 2030 seven years ago, the Kingdom has launched a series of initiatives that emphasize technology as a tool for social and economic reform.

Strategic agendas under Vision 2030 focus on regenerating the country’s digital infrastructure to boost economic growth, knowledge and enhance daily life. To this end, Saudi Arabia has committed to an annual investment of 2.5 percent of GDP in the sectors of development, research and innovation by 2040.

The Kingdom’s technological plans are supported by SDAIA, which was launched by royal decree in August 2019.

The same year, the Saudi government launched Absher, a smartphone application which enables citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia to access a variety of government services.

“Government spending demonstrates a big focus on digitalization,” Fadi Komati, a digital government consulting leader at PwC Middle East, told Arab News. “Why the sector is moving so quickly is because the majority of the population is young and eager to move forward and advance in cutting-edge technologies.

Fadi Komati

“The government’s digital transformation and continued investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and innovation lay the groundwork for a lot of opportunities, both for the private and public sector.”

Komati underlines how government investment in tech is “encouraging the private sector to become more mature, thus also stimulating and incentivising international companies to visit and open in Saudi Arabia.”

“The increased progress in the private tech sector within Saudi Arabia is a result of government investment in the sector,” he said.

In the same vein, Saudi tech entrepreneur Hussein Attar, CEO at private investment firm Tech Invest Com, told Arab News: “In terms of Saudi Arabia, all the giga projects being launched, such as NEOM, have placed a strong focus on technological innovation. Every giga project has a funding side that is investing in tech. Saudi Aramco also has its own investment fund for technology.”

Hussein Attar

At last year’s LEAP conference, Saudi Aramco unveiled a billion dollars’ worth of investments in developing start-ups through entrepreneurship support fund Prosperity 7 Ventures. NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Co. stated it was investing $1 billion in future technologies and launching the new M3LD AI engine as well as the XVRS digital twin metaverse.

Technological investment in Saudi Arabia is also paramount to the country’s environmental goals. In October 2022, at the sixth edition of the Future Investment Initiative, Aramco unveiled a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, one of the world’s largest sustainability-focused venture capital funds.

Recent data demonstrates the rise of Saudi Arabia as a growing global center, both regionally and internationally, in both the private and public sectors. According to the 2022 Saudi Arabia Venture Capital Report produced by Magnitt, the Kingdom was one of the emerging markets that recorded year on year growth nearing the $1 billion mark.

Saudi Arabia’s tech evolution is a way for the country to connect with the wider region and the world. AI, which was a recent focus at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is paramount to the Kingdom’s growth in the field of tech.

A scene from LEAP 2022. (File photo Supplied)

In September 2022, the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence announced an investment of $776 million in a joint venture with China’s SenseTime to develop the AI ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

“The Kingdom’s advanced technological infrastructure, high-caliber developments in the field of AI, and high standards designed by government authorities encourage AI businesses to plug in and grow in a regionally leading market,” Dr. Turki Almugaiteeb, a Saudi expert in technological development and innovation, told Arab News.

Dr. Turki Almugaiteeb

Saudi Arabia has also signed a number of partnerships with global AI providers to find practical solutions to everyday problems, Komati said, adding: “AI is very high on the agenda in Saudi Arabia because it is considered a mechanism by which technology can provide much bigger benefits.”

Technological investment and the Kingdom’s numerous avenues being explored for technological growth and innovation are also about education and offering a better life for its citizens, residents, and all visitors to Saudi Arabia.

In the words of Almugaiteeb, the key ingredients in Saudi Arabia’s rise to tech giant status are “the great human resources being developed in the Kingdom, combined with educated young Saudis in the field, many of whom have gained experience abroad.”

 

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