Role of technology in improving pilgrims’ experience discussed

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

JEDDAH: The role of technology in improving Hajj and Umrah experiences for pilgrims was discussed on the sidelines of the Saudi National Security and Risk Prevention Expo in Riyadh, along with the importance of building a Saudi workforce capable of making the Kingdom more self-sufficient in the technology sector.

Ahmed Riad, managing director of Estmrarya Management Consulting, announced a new partnership with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to launch a new electronic application designed to assemble a huge database of information about pilgrims.

He explained that app will allow pilgrims to enter their personal information, such as age and health status, and the analysis of this data will help authorities to predict potential problems and deal with them more quickly and easily, before they get worse.

Iyad Ibrahim, director of sales and marketing with Thales Group, a French multinational company that designs and builds electrical systems, presented an integrated strategy on how to manage crowds during Hajj and Umrah seasons through the development of an integrated system that analyzes data to help authorities make the right decisions more quickly.

He said that the system proposed by his company, which will link all holy sites through an integrated system that analyzes video, photos and data, will make it easier to control and manage crowds, and discover and deal with any unusual behavior.

Waleed Abu Khalid, CEO of Northrop Grumman in the Middle East, said: “We are working on a strategy aligned with Vision 2030 and contracting with local companies to take the lead in our contracts within the Kingdom, with a view to transferring knowledge and technology to local companies.”

Abu Khalid said that more than 100,000 Saudi students are studying at American universities, whose expertise will benefit the Kingdom in the future.

He added: “We focused on dealing with US graduates through a special summer program. We have also tried to motivate Saudi boys and girls to enter the field of advanced technology and launched, in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a successful special competition for Saudi youth, focusing on challenges facing the Kingdom in science, engineering and other disciplines related to the environment or advanced technology.”

He called on businesses and investors to enter this industry, saying that it offers promising opportunities. This is evident in Vision 2030, which calls for localization of the security industry to reach 50 percent, instead of relying on external suppliers.

Abu Khalid added that cooperation with international companies to enhance the advanced security industry in the Kingdom needs to include the establishment of research centers related to technology in the fields of security and safety, among others, in addition to the strengthening of academic cooperation between Saudi universities and government agencies.

“We want to get rid of the principle of ‘buying to use’ through providing the necessary human resources that enable us to manufacture,” he said. “Otherwise, we will continue to work within this principle for 20 years to come. Together with businessmen, universities and research centers, the Kingdom can develop technologies that it owns rather than just buying them.”