Agreements signed to improve digital services for pilgrims

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has signed two agreements that aim to enhance the digital capabilities of services related to Hajj and Umrah, to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for pilgrims. Both were signed on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative gathering in Riyadh.

The first is with Germany-based European technology multinational SAP to develop innovative cloud technologies to transform the operations required to host millions of pilgrims every year. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, the Saudi minister of Hajj and Umrah, and Steve Tzikakis, SAP’s president of EMEA South.

In a separate ceremony, the minister signed a MoU with Salman Faqeeh, the managing director of Cisco Saudi Arabia, for help enhancing the ministry’s digital infrastructure and services.

Under the agreements, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will explore the use of a cloud-based digital platform to unify all of its pilgrim-related data. By using such technology in collaboration with hundreds of travel agencies worldwide, the ministry will be able to get real-time updates and insights into the pilgrim-travel experience, which will allow it to improve its crowd-management, transportation and logistics services, while ensuring the health and safety of pilgrims.

“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s digital transformation is aligned with our vision of making a pilgrim’s journey easy and predictable, within an environment of peace and tranquility,” said Benten. “As the number of pilgrims on Hajj and Umrah grows steadily, we can easily scale up on the cloud to enhance our operations. This helps improve the effectiveness of both our staff and infrastructure in order to optimize travel experiences for all.”

It is anticipated that the potential cost savings for the government from moving its digital operations to the cloud will be between 25 and 50 percent, thanks to reduced hardware costs and the exploitation of synergies with existing cloud-based services.

“By using our real-time analytics and Internet of Things solutions in the cloud, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah can enhance travel processes, optimize transportation routes, and support digital payments for the more than 2 million pilgrims from 168 countries who arrive in Makkah each year,” said Khaled Alsaleh, the managing director of SAP Saudi Arabia.

“We are pleased to play an important role in supporting the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in providing a peaceful, more enjoyable and safe travel.”

The announcement follows SAP’s commitment this year to invest SR285 million ($76 million) over the next four years to create a digital hub to support the ministry’s digital transformation.

The investment falls under the banner of a new “Invest Saudi” initiative, through which the Kingdom’s plans to attract and promote investment are accelerating. The initiative, part of the National Transformation Plan, aims to consolidate efforts to identify, develop and market the vast opportunities in many sectors that Saudi Arabia can offer multinational, regional and local investors.