Experts discuss digital overhaul in Hajj, Umrah system

Thursday, March 10, 2022

JEDDAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman on Wednesday inaugurated the 21st Scientific Forum for Hajj, Umrah, Visit Research at the King Salman International Convention Center.

Held under the patronage of King Salman, the three-day forum — titled “Digital Transformation in the Hajj, Umrah and Visit System” — is being organized by Umm Al-Qura University, represented by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research.

The inauguration was attended by academic researchers with an interest in Hajj, Umrah and visit studies, experts in digital transformation, and representatives from the public and private sectors, financial and educational institutions and youth leaders.

In his speech, Prince Faisal affirmed the pride of Saudi Arabia, its leadership and people in serving the pilgrims of the Two Holy Mosques.

“Since its unification, this blessed country has been exploiting all its efforts and capabilities in the service of the Guests of Allah, and this is reflected in the generous support of King Salman to this forum,” he said.

Prince Faisal added that this patronage demonstrates the priority the leadership gives to pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors to the holy places.

The governor said that the technical progress Saudi Arabia achieved before, during and after the pandemic has made it one of the best countries to adapt and employ technology in all fields.

Turki Al-Amr, dean of the institute, said that the forum will showcase the latest developments in digital transformation in the field, and provide a platform for sharing ideas and knowledge.

About 30 speakers will discuss the application and governance of digital transformation in the Hajj and Umrah system. Workshops and an exhibition are also being held on the sidelines of the forum.

The forum will explore three main issues — governance of digital transformation in the Hajj and Umrah system, applying digital transformation to improve the services provided to pilgrims and visitors to the two holy cities, and developing the processes of decision-making and provided services.

In the first session, headed by Amer bin Awad Al-Zaidi, UQU’s vice president for educational affairs, speakers highlighted legislation and regulations to encourage digital transformation.

They also shed light on governance of data sharing, privacy and data security, as well as digital transformation risks and opportunities, and the role of digital transformation in the sustainability of the economy, environment and society.

This session was followed by a speech by the Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the key speaker in the forum. The minister, who is also a member of the supervisory committee of the institute, underlined his ministry’s efforts in digital transformation for the service of pilgrims.

In the second session, which was led by Abdul-Fattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, underlined the digital transformation efforts in the Two Holy Mosques.

Other speakers shed light on the roles digital transformation is playing in receiving pilgrims and visitors to the holy sites. Future utilization of artificial intelligence and its effects in improving Hajj and Umrah services were also discussed in the 90-minute session.

Young people are also participating in the Forum’s Hajjathon 2022, a tech competition that aims to connect young generations with the Hajj and is in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to stimulate innovation. Hajjathon activities began a day before the official inauguration of the forum.

Participants are competing in creating creative, technical solutions in the fields of health, catering, waste management, transportation, travel arrangements, crowd management, financial solutions, housing, communication solutions, enrichment of pilgrims’ Hajj experience and awareness.

Through training and workshops, developing innovative ideas and counseling sessions, participants will be able to develop their skills, in addition to building relationships with leaders in the field.