Displaying items by tag: Saudi Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia to lift block on internet video calling

Written on Sunday, 24 September 2017 12:15

Internet video calling services like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber, will be available to use in Saudi Arabia next week, after coordination between the Communications and Information Technology Commission and telecommunications service providers to allow applications that provide voice communications over the internet.

Communications and Information Technology Minister, H.E. Eng. Abdullah Alswaha, said the commitment had been confirmed by the cooperating parties to enable internet users in the kingdom to use applications to make high quality voice and video calls, under the condition that all applications are reviewed every so often.

“This fruitful cooperation between the kingdom’s telecoms partners comes under the umbrella of ‘Customer First’,” the Minister said, “a policy in which everyone works in order to give all telecom subscribers in the kingdom the best services that meet their expectations and satisfy their needs.”

Saudi Arabia has previously taken steps to improve customer service and create more transparency in the telecom sector, including the introduction of the quarterly index of complaints filed by subscribers to telecommunications providers.

More initiatives by the Commission are set to unfold in partnership with telecom providers, according to Arab News, to improve the sector and customer experience, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, a plan to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and become a more digital, customer-centric society.   

Published in Government

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj becomes safer and smarter

Written on Sunday, 10 September 2017 11:37

Saudi Arabia receives around 1.75 million pilgrims from around the world for the annual Islamic Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca. Making necessary arrangements each year for the growing number of pilgrims poses a logistic challenge for the government, as well as telecom providers striving to cater to the dense crowds. The solution, according to reports, has been the implementation of smart connectivity.

Hajj pilgrim numbers have steadily increased in recent years which have led to numerous accidents and deaths due to overcrowding. In 2015, a stampede resulted in 769 deaths and injuries to 934 others, according to Saudi authorities. The Associated Press totaled at least 1,470 fatalities from official reports from other countries, making it the most deadly Hajj incident to date.

But the Hajj is a major revenue driver for Saudi Arabia, raking in around $8.5 billion in 2014. It’s the kingdom’s highest source of revenue after oil and gas, and the country is expected to depend more on the event as oil and gas sales decline. Saudi Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s plan to reduce its dependence on oil by diversifying its economy and developing service sectors.

Introducing more connectivity and smart solutions, it seems, has made the Hajj pilgrimage a lot safer the past two years in Saudi Arabia, and a much more seamless experience for those involved. In 2016, for example, Saudi authorities issued electronic bracelets to pilgrims containing personal and medical information to assist authorities caring for and identifying people, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The water-resistant bracelets, developed by British security firm G4S, are connected to GPS and contain crucial information such as passport numbers and addresses, and also useful information to worshippers, such as timings of prayers, and a multi-lingual help desk to guide non-Arabic speakers around the event. The high-tech measure, G4S said, would help Saudi authorities provide care “and identify people.”

Wearable technology company Daira Tech also pledged its services to make Hajj and Umrah “safer and simpler” by developing its own connected bracelet called ‘Hajj Guider’, which provides tracking, voice communications and an emergency/panic button. The company’s smartphone app allows users to navigate offline, setup groups, track friends and family, and create custom geo fences.

Since the 1950s, Saudi Arabia has spent over $100 billion to increase pilgrimage facilities, according to the Encyclopedia of Islam. The government has addressed and improved major issues such as housing transportation, sanitation and healthcare, with the result that pilgrims now enjoy modern facilities and perform rites at ease.  

Saudi authorities reportedly installed more than 800 surveillance cameras at the Grand Mosque in Mecca linked to control rooms staffed by Special Forces monitoring pilgrim movements during Hajj rituals to ensure maximum safety and security.

Live crowd analytics software has also been implemented by authorities, which is not only able to spot incidents happening in crowds, but can also predict where overcrowding is likely to happen. Authorities can analyze live data that feeds into an operations room. The software, developed by London-based CrowdVision, provides real-time feedback on crowd numbers, densities, and so on.

“Crowds can be dangerous places. Whether triggered by factions within the crowd, by natural disasters or misguided crowd managers, there is a long history of crushes, stampedes and failed evacuations," said CrowdVision co-founder Fiona Strens. "[The software] spots patterns of crowd behavior that indicate potential danger such as high densities, pressure, turbulence, stop-and-go waves and other anomalies.”

Improved telecom services

Busy public events like Hajj create challenges not only for government, but also for telecom operators, as many people attempt to access mobile networks at the same time. Saudi Arabia’s telecom providers, in response to the growing number of Hajj pilgrims, have stepped up their game for the event by providing premium connectivity for all.

Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the kingdom’s largest telecom provider, increased Wi-Fi coverage in Mecca and Holy sites this year to prepare for the Hajj pilgrimage. The increased coverage extends to tunnels, bridges, and a number of public utilities in Mina.

STC increased Wi-Fi by 206 percent compared to last year, it said. The increase enabled a high speed of data to flow to pilgrims and workforces. The company said it dedicated all of its technical and human capabilities “to serve pilgrims coming to the country.” STC even announced a special offer for the first time with "SAWA Ziyara" SIM cards, that were specialized for this year’s Hajj season.

Saudi Arabia’s second largest telecom provider, Etihad Etisalat (Mobily), also made exceptional connectivity preparations to cater for the needs of Hajj pilgrims this year. The company said it increased data capacity by 50 percent through 4G in Holy areas to improve data services.  

Mobily also provided over 1,300 Wi-Fi access points with a capacity of 2,080 MB per second in the Holy areas of Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah, it said. Additionally, the telecom provider set up more than 1,000 fixed and mobile communication towers in Mecca and other Holy places.

The company, partly owned by UAE’s Etisalat Group, recently signed an agreement to develop its mobile network in different regions around the Kingdom with Nokia, Huawei and Ericsson. The agreement comes in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and its objectives that focus on developing Saudi Arabia’s telecom and IT sector, said Eng. Ahmed Aboudoma, CEO of Mobily.   

Mobily’s Chief Technology Officer and Head of Hajj Committee, Eng. Maziad Alharbi, said the company feels “honored to be one of the national companies working in serving pilgrims every year.”

Efforts to increase connectivity for Hajj have also been undertaken by Zain Saudi Arabia, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Zain Group, which announced in May this year that it had deployed Nokia’s Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) platform for the delivery of smart applications to subscribers heading to Mecca. The new solution enabled Zain subscribers to navigate crowded areas safely.

Zain Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Al Deghaither, Chief Technology Officer, said the company had invested in modernizing its network in the Hajj area. “The deployment of the Nokia MEC platform and two smart Hajj applications on this network is yet another milestone in our evolution toward building smart cities in the kingdom,” he said.

Following the successful trial during the 2016 Hajj, Nokia and Zain deployed the Nokia Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) platform together with Edge Video Orchestration over the network using both macro and small cell base stations to enhance the experience for Zain's subscribers.

The Nokia MEC platform allows applications to be hosted closer to the edge of the network, therefore closer to subscribers, to efficiently use network resources and open up new opportunities for the delivery of tailored services in high-traffic locations. By combining MEC with Edge Video Orchestration, video feeds can be efficiently broadcast to multiple subscribers' devices simultaneously with millisecond latency.

During Hajj, subscribers could download and use two site-specific applications over the MEC-enabled network, including ‘Zain People Finder’ which helps to easily navigate crowds and locate people; and the ‘Live Hajj’ app which allows users to view video streams from the Al Rahmah Mountain, to identify the best time of day to perform the 'flinging of the pebbles' ritual.

“We are pleased to work with Zain to provide the benefits of using MEC to deliver a differentiated experience at such an important event,” said Ali Al Jitawi, head of the Zain Saudi Arabia Customer Team at Nokia.

Nokia also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with STC this year to collaborate on the development of 5G and IoT use cases in Saudi Arabia. Under the terms of the MoU, Nokia and STC will carry out trials of technologies such as 4.5G Pro and 4.9G, key steps on the path to 5G to build the capacity and throughput speeds needed for new applications.

The collaboration will play an important role in STC’s digitalization transformation and its support of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision, which includes a strategic and comprehensive plan to develop the Hajj sector so as to allow the largest number of Muslims possible to attend.  

Published in Featured

STC increases Wi-Fi coverage 206% for Hajj pilgrims

Written on Sunday, 10 September 2017 08:57

Saudi Telecom Company (STC) said it increased Wi-Fi coverage in Makkah and Holy Sites to prepare for pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj. The coverage includes tunnels, bridges, and a number of public utilities in Mina which received pilgrims to start their Tarwiah day on August 30.

The Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that can be carried out at least once in their lifetime. Pilgrim numbers have increased in recent years, which have led to numerous accidents and deaths due to overcrowding.

Still, it’s a major revenue driver for Saudi Arabia, bringing in an expected $8.5 billion in 2014. Saudi Arabia’s highest source of revenue after oil and gas is the Hajj and the country is expected to depend more on the event as the amounts of available oil and gas for sale decline.

Vision 2030 is the nation’s plan to reduce its dependence on oil by diversifying its economy, developing service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. Playing to the needs of the country, STC, Saudi Arabia’s largest telecom provider, announced it would increase Wi-Fi spots around Makkah and Madinah 206 percent compared to last year.

The increase enables a high speed of data to flow to pilgrims and workforces of all sectors who work on STC’s service. The company said it has dedicated all of its technical and human capabilities to serve pilgrims coming to the country.

Published in Telecom Operators

Saudi Arabia’s STC shared its Q2 2017 financial results showing a 7.9 percent net income increase compared to the same period last year to reach SR 2.4 billion (US$640 million). STC Group CEO Dr. Khaled H. Biyari said the results reflect the company’s move to embrace digital transformation and Saudi Vision 2030.

“The financial results achieved for the 1st half of 2017 reflects the efforts being made to constantly evolve, improve and develop the company’s strategy and operations and achieve the best returns for the shareholders,” said Dr. Biyari in a statement. “Despite the various difficulties facing the sector, STC sponsored programs contributed to improve operational efficiency leading to improved income and margins.”

For the first half of 2017, STC’s net income reached SR 4.9 billion, an increase of 6.6% compared to same period last year. Earnings per share for the first half of 2017 grew to reach SR 2.45 compared to SR 2.30 for the comparable period last year.  

Dr. Biyari said, “The whole region is moving towards digital transformation through elements of the fourth industrial revolution, here comes the importance of governments in the region to provide the right environment and stimulate investment in digital infrastructure.”

STC embraced Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, he said, and the national transformation program 2020 through multiple initiatives, which include deployment of broadband throughout the Kingdom. Saudi Vision 2030 is a national plan to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.

STC recently signed with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to provide high speed broadband with fiber-optic technology to more than 2 million homes projected to cost up to SR 7.3 billion.

The company will also “continue to invest in promising technologies and digital sectors, particularly in areas that enable the company to benefit from their assets and infrastructure and help enable growth and expansion of investments in different areas,” said Dr. Biyari. The latest company announcement was establishing a $500 million venture capital fund (STV) to strengthen this trend.

In accordance with the approved dividend policy for three years starting from the 4th quarter 2015 which was announced on 11 November 2015, and having been ratified during the General Assembly Meeting on April 4th 2016, STC will distribute a total of SR 2,000 million in cash dividend for Q2 2017, representing SR 1 per share. 

Published in Finance

SAP is partnering with oil giant Saudi Aramco in creating a new solutions platform to enable Saudi Aramco to launch a digital business marketplace with thousands of Saudi Aramco buyers and suppliers in partnership with SAP Ariba.

Saudi Aramco says the move forms part of its digital transformation strategy and will help it and its global subsidiaries to manage and simplify real-time collaboration between their buyers and suppliers. 

The deal will make it Saudi Arabia’s first company that will run solutions on the SAP Cloud Hub, which will launch shortly as part of SAP’s four-year SAR 285 million investment plan in the Kingdom. As a result, the firm will be able to run cloud-based business applications to optimize business processes and costs, and enhance customer and supplier relationships.

Using SAP Ariba, Saudi Aramco can capitalize on several solution functionalities, including e-Bidding, e-Sourcing, Contracts Life-Cycle Management and Supplier Onboarding, to create a collaborative supply chain environment that will enhance supply chain efficiency and open wider business opportunities for the local and regional supplier-base.

SAP Ariba combines industry-leading cloud-based applications with the world’s largest Internet-based trading community to help companies discover and collaborate with a global network of partners. Companies around the world use the software to simplify inter-enterprise commerce and enhance the results that they deliver.

“Saudi Aramco is showing global leadership in digital business innovation in the oil and gas sector. Through the SAP Cloud Hub, SAP continues to co-innovate with the Kingdom’s leading players to drive Saudi Vision 2030 digital transformation and support Saudi job creation through our academies,” said Ahmed Al-Faifi, Managing Director of SAP Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen.

“Using the Ariba business platform, Saudi Aramco buyers and suppliers can gain new levels of business competitiveness, and simpler, smarter sourcing. SAP fully supports Saudi Aramco’s digital transformation agenda for long-term and sustainable business and economic growth” said Mohammad AlZaubi, Global Director for Saudi Aramco, SAP.

Through the SAP Ariba source-to-pay applications, buyers and suppliers worldwide have benefitted from 60 percent lower costs, at least 50 percent greater efficiency, at least 5 percent more sales, and about 15 percent improved customer retention.

Saudi Arabian telecoms giant Saudi Telecom Company (STC) announced the establishment of STV, a technology venture capital fund that aims to achieve its strategic growth aspirations and to help realize Vision 2030’s technological ambitions by investing in new digital areas and by growing the digital innovation ecosystem in the region.

STC believes the Middle East is witnessing a digital transformation that is full of opportunities in the digital economy and digital industries, and that the future involves drastic changes that will disrupt businesses across sectors.

The company has intentions to be a serious world-class player in the space and today STV has been approved with a size of $500 million, making it the largest institutional technology venture capital fund in the Middle East.

STC will have complete independence and will deploy independent governance and operational models that are designed in accordance with international best practices allowing it to leverage STC’s assets to enable its investments and the surrounding ecosystem to grow and scale. STC will be managed by a leading team of top regional and international talent in this field.

"We are very proud of this historic step by STC, which will be a pivotal turning point for the region's technology ecosystem," said Dr. Khaled Biyari, Chief Executive Officer of STC. "Global telecoms have two choices - to either change and evolve into digital companies or to convert into a utility. We have elected to go down the first route. STC has the potential, resources and strategic assets to make a quantum leap in the technology and entrepreneurial sectors it is working on transforming,” Biyari added.

"We believe the region can create its own future and we will invest in the next generation growth engines that will make this happen," said Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, Chief Executive Officer of STC. "The centers of gravity for growth and value across the world’s economies and industries will undergo profound transformations due to technology disruptions, and we believe STC will create value for STC and the region amidst these transformations.”

Published in Finance

Some of Saudi Arabia’s largest organizations recently announced that nationwide digital transformation will be essential to accomplish Saudi Vision 2030’s six-fold growth in non-oil revenue to SAR 1 trillion by 2030.

Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Plan aim to grow non-oil government revenue from SAR 163 billion (USD 43 billion) in 2015 to SAR 1 trillion (USD 266 billion) by 2030. The share of non-oil exports in the non-oil GDP is set to triple from 16 percent in 2015 to 50 percent by 2030.

In line with Saudi Vision 2030, many of the Kingdom’s government organizations and conglomerates are accelerating their digital transformation to drive innovation and jobs for Saudi nationals.

“Saudi Vision 2030 is a milestone for nationwide digital transformation, with public-private partnerships driving innovative new business models and solutions in the Digital Economy,” said Bill McDermott, CEO of global enterprise software company SAP.

“With highly talented Saudi nationals and advanced technology infrastructure, the Kingdom is set to leapfrog established economies to become one of the worlds most innovative, from government to SMEs.”

With half of the Kingdom’s population under the age of 25-years-old, the Saudi Arabia’s government is playing a key role in supporting the Saudi national workforce participation.

“Synergy between the public and private sectors is essential for delivering on the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, and supporting the millennial workforce of the future,” said Ahmed Al-Faifi, Managing Director, SAP Saudi Arabia.

“SAP is working closely with the Kingdom’s public and private sector innovators to adopt real-time technology across government services, aviation, utilities, manufacturing, and banking to transform daily lives and business models.”

Supporting the Saudi workforce of the future, the SAP Training and Development Institute counts 35 University Alliance Partners that have trained thousands of students and localized products in Arabic for the Saudi market. As a result, SAP has generated an “in-country” value of USD 31 million in skills and knowledge in the Kingdom since 2012.