Saudi Arabia praised for keeping millions connected during Hajj

Thursday, August 1, 2019

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) have been praised for their efforts to improve the Hajj experience through the use of technology.

A senior official from the Internet Society, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the internet, congratulated the ministry and the industry regulator for the incredible achievement of providing reliable connectivity to the millions of pilgrims who visit the country each year.

Speaking to Arab News Jane Coffin, senior adviser to the CEO and president of the Internet Society, said: “One thing that is fascinating about the ministry and the regulator, the CITC, is that the work the government has to do here in the Kingdom on the connectivity side when there is Hajj is amazing.

“They have a lot of people coming in and they have worked to ensure total readiness to help with the connectivity ... which is impressive.”

Jane Coffin

More than 2 million people visit Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj each year and Coffin said a huge amount of work is needed to ensure reliable connectivity for such a large number. People not only use their phones for data, text messages and instant messaging but they also take and share photos and videos, she noted.

“The burden on the network to deliver that traffic is immense,” she said. “It is an amazing achievement by the ministry and the regulator.”

Coffin is responsible for development strategy at the Internet Society, where her work focuses on coordination of collaborative strategies for expanding internet infrastructure, access and related capacities in emerging economies.

She was visiting Riyadh for an event, organized by the society and ministry, focusing on best practices for a vibrant digital environment. She said that it included discussions of internet safety and internet exchange points (IXP), the physical infrastructure through which traffic passes from one network to another, which are an integral part of the global internet infrastructure.

“We do workshops like this and work with the communities all over the region,” she added. “To bring in more internet connectivity to help with the IXP, that was the part of reason we were here.

“We are trying to help make the internet cheaper, better and faster here and create a more level playing field for everybody.”

Coffin also praised the ongoing program of reforms in support of Saudi Vision 2030, and highlighted the role of digital transformation as part of the process.

“I am sure they will carry out the mission; Vision 2030 is very impressive and it means that the Kingdom is thinking of moving in another direction, which is very important for development including literacy, business and the health sector, because connectivity underpins everything.”

She also pointed out that Riyadh will host the 15th G20 summit next year, which also represents another major boost to digital transformation in the country.

Regarding the potential for future cooperation and partnerships with the Saudi ministry, she said that while there are currently no specific plans to work together, “we are definitely talking to them more about what we can do.”