Mecca must be fast-tracked into world class smart city, says Haj committee chair

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The transformation of Mecca into a a world-class smart city should be fast-tracked, according to Prince Khalid Al Faisal, governor of the Mecca region and chair of the central Jaj committee.

He stressed the importance of completing projects in Mecca and the holy sites to develop the Haj and Umrah system to meet the needs of pilgrims from around the world.

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Al Faisal has ordered continuing work and early preparation for the next year’s Haj, and the annual Haj workshop, in which the relevant authorities discuss after the end of each year’s Haj, ways to develop services provided to pilgrims in the aspects of housing, subsistence, transportation, services, facilities, reception and farewell.

The development of the sites will continue “until Mecca and the Holy Sites become a world-class smart city,” he said.

Al Faisal was speaking as he chaired the Haj central preparatory meeting, which discussed the pilgrims’ needs including accommodations, meals, information and communication channels, and various modes of transportation.

He directed to offer pilgrims a combination of the latest technologies that integrate fixed and wireless broadband networks, fixed and mobile GIS and GPS applications, and user-friendly information and communications points that can greatly enhance the visitors experience, and the city’s objective of quality services to the visitors of the holy sites.

The meeting addressed e-government, safety control systems and security applications, smart city management applications, and how to develop a large community of users with ICT skills. Also on the agenda was the workshop on e-government services suite, GIS based planning and management applications, mobile GIS emergency response applications, security, law enforcement and safety control applications for preparation for the next year’s Haj pilgrimage season.

This year’s haj “saw an increased pace in using technology to improve the pilgrimage experience, he said.

Recently unveiled projects by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah included a smart haj platform, a service-supervision initiative to improve housing by adding living space and organising bus trips, a pilgrim grouping programme that uses electronic system to manage and monitor crowds, a project to increase capacity as part of which a site in Mina has been cleared to set up fully-equipped tents, and an initiative to improve upon food services and expand the provision of ready meals at holy sites.

The ministry started its “Smart Haj” initiative during 2018 pilgrimage with digital services and apps including “Haj and Umrah Navigator” and “Health and Our Rituals”.