RIYADH: The World Bank’s regional director for Gulf Cooperation Council countries has urged the organization to take “immediate actions” to address threats to water supplies caused by climate change.
Issam Abousleiman warned that tackling the rising costs associated with maintaining water and energy security for the region’s population of almost 60 million demanded a swift response.
He told Arab News: “To date, adaptive measures have too often been reactive, short term, expensive, and fragmented.
“Negative effects on the environment are often the consequences of the management of the water and energy sectors.
“The Gulf and Red Sea are naturally saltier than the world’s oceans on average, due to elevated evaporation rates and reduced freshwater inflows.
“Already hundreds of desalination plants deposit hypersaline waste in shallow coastal zones, and many GCC countries have plans for significant expansion of desalination,” he added.
The bank official pointed out that desalination-plant effluent triggered a vicious cycle of unsustainability: The higher the salt concentration in waste deposited near source intakes, the more energy required to remove that salt when new seawater was taken in for desalination.
Abousleiman noted that poor or non-existent brine abatement was impacting on coastal marine life and would eventually hit tourism.
He said: “The GCC has started to take action on this by using new technology for desalination along with renewable energy while treating brine.
“If the GCC is able to transition all their existing plants, they will also have the possibility to save the equivalent of around 500,000 barrels per day of oil and reduce tremendously the energy used to produce their water with zero greenhouse gas emissions. This will also have a positive impact on their fiscal and balance of payments,” he added.
A recent World Bank report — titled “Advancing Knowledge of the Water-Energy Nexus in the GCC Countries” — highlighted the challenges faced by GCC countries in ensuring the long-term sustainability of their water and energy resources.
It also signposted opportunities for dealing with the situation, including the adoption of key innovations in the management of the region’s energy and water supply systems, and methods of reducing consumption and demand.
In the future, the report said, the GCC could increase availability while making significant water and energy savings through improved metering, pricing structures, and the reallocation of groundwater on farms.
LONDON: The Diriyah Gate Development Authority took part in this year’s World Travel Market Exhibition in London from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9.
The exhibition, regarded as one of the most important international events in the travel industry, drew nearly 5,000 exhibitors from 182 countries.
At its booth, “Diriyah, The City of Earth,” the DGDA highlighted the vast advances made in establishing the historically rich location as a top travel destination, as well as its efforts to preserve and celebrate the Kingdom’s heritage and culture.
The authority showcased two of its most exciting upcoming openings, the UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage site, the At-Turaif district and the neighboring Bujairi Terrace, a hub for luxury dining and lifestyle amenities.
DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo also participated in a special panel discussion at the event focusing on “The Mission to Sustainability.”
“We were beyond excited to once again bring Diriyah to the world, this time at London’s — ExCeL exhibition center,” Inzerillo said.
“WTM London has served as a genuine benchmark for our industry’s event circuit since its inception over four decades ago, and once again provided an outstanding platform to showcase our tremendous progress across the last year to a truly distinguished global audience,” he said.
RIYADH: The world needs a new approach to protect itself from emerging cyber threats, Saudi Arabia’s minister of communication and information technology told the Global Cybersecurity Forum on Wednesday in Riyadh.
Abdullah Al-Swaha added his voice to calls for reform in the face of increasing threats from hackers and rapidly advancing technology, such as AI and quantum computers, that has the potential to subvert even the best cybersecurity available today.
He said that the Kingdom had risen to second place globally in its ranking for cybersecurity but added that it must “reskill” to maintain that position. “We need to shift from conventional IT to secure everything,” he said.
The dangers posed by advancing technology were flagged at another panel by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who said that the computers of the near future would make modern devices seem little more than abacuses.
He called for education on dealing with artificial intelligence and quantum computers, and warned that several AI programs could already mimic human behavior.
“We need quantum to fight quantum. We have to rethink the whole thing. We will in fact become obsolete when quantum computers get rolled out,” he said.
“People used to say it was impossible to create a quantum computer that can compete with a digital supercomputer. Three years ago, the impossible happened: Quantum computers from the US and China exceeded the ability of a super digital computer.”
He said that the Chinese quantum computer exceeded the capability of a modern-day digital device by 100 trillion times.
“These quantum computers are initiating a new era of insecurity. These quantum computers can evade every single known security protocol. This is called chaos. Realizing that we are entering a new era, the age of Silicon Valley is coming to a close, as quantum computers begin to take over.”
He said that while the shift to the quantum era may be gradual, it was nevertheless unavoidable.
Kaku added that humans should create advanced trapdoor functions to make it difficult for a criminal to penetrate security apparatus.
The forum has gathered international experts under the theme ‘Rethinking the Global Cyber Order.’
4,500 attendees from more than 110 countries are discussing a wide range of cyber issues.
Speaking at the same panel Shyam Saran, a former foreign secretary of India, said that global collaboration and a healthy diplomatic framework were necessary to ensure cybersecurity.
“We are living in a very difficult geopolitical situation. Countries that could lead (cybersecurity) collaboration are actually confronting each other. If they are not going to lead, who will?” he said.
He said that decision-makers should be educated on cyber threats to help them create the right regulatory policies and create safe online space.
Doreen Martin, secretary-general-elect of the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, insisted that world leaders were paying attention to cybersecurity concerns.
She told the event: “The UN secretary general put cybersecurity as core and in the common agenda that he launched last year, and it’s also core to the new agenda for peace that’s being discussed.”
Martin did accept that the world needed to be better prepared for the wave of technical innovations on the horizon.
“I think each of us has to do more because as we increase the cyberworld moves faster, and quantum is coming faster, and of course the metaverse is almost here, so we do have to do more,” she said.
Martin said that the ITU was helping countries to benchmark themselves, identify gaps in their defenses and look to others in terms of best practices.
“Overall we’re seeing positive trends and we have a number of countries that have introduced new laws, and we’re seeing increased training for law enforcement, which is encouraging.”
Robert Putman, a cybersecurity products and services manager at the ABB multinational, said that it was not just technology that needed to evolve to protect against cyberattacks, but also the behavior of people.
“People do not understand what the risk is. They do not understand how to address it. Complacency is one of the root causes of the risks and exposure we have right now,” he said.
He said that the market had undergone a transition, which, like insurance, involved the modeling of risks. Using such models would enable them to understand the impact of that risk on operational assets, he added.
Interpol’s president Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi told the event that the world needed a better exchange of information and ideas to beat global threats.
“When we have a base to exchange information, even when there are no diplomatic relations between countries, it is important to protect citizens,” he said.
Al-Raisi said that the estimated yearly losses to cybercrimes had doubled to $6 trillion since 2015, and were expected to reach $10.5 trillion in 2025.
“This number is more than natural disasters that occur in a year, in addition to profits made by all drug dealers around the world,” he said.
As the whole world is becoming a village with a vast space of the internet, a large field for all criminal operations in cyberattacks has emerged, he said.
“My past experience with smart transformation has led me to have my first strategy in the organization (Interpol) and to prioritize cybercrime,” he told the gathering.
This move has led to ensuring the 195 member states have systems and capabilities of competencies that can not only respond to a cyberattack but also to prevent them, he added.
Christopher Blassiau, senior vice president of Cybersecurity & Global CISO Schneider Electric, said the changing nature and fracturing of the global energy market made the sector vulnerable to hackers. “There is a big amount of risk,” he said.
Blassiau added that owing to the absolute necessity for a green agenda, digitalization is going at a fast pace and is bringing a complete visibility of asset performance and a better dialogue between human and machine.
Mary Aiken, an expert in cyberpsychology — the study of the impact of technology on human behavior — meanwhile said that the unanimity of the internet was one of the main threats faced by the modern world.
“The internet was created on the principle that all users are equal. This is not true. Some users are vulnerable, especially children and women,” she said. “Young people take risks online that they will not do in the real world.”
There has been a surge in cyberattacks in the Middle East and North African region in recent years, with many companies suffering larger losses than in other parts of the world. The problem is compounded by the fact that 57 percent of organizations report unfilled cybersecurity positions.
A weak line of defense increases a company’s vulnerability to major damage, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Global Cybersecurity Forum.
The report also said that around 94 percent of women in the Middle East would be interested in studying cybersecurity, although only a small percentage of women worldwide were active in that field.
Speaking to Arab News, Laila bin Hareb Al-Mheiri, founder and president of Alive Group, Alive Medical, Alive Labs, and Alive consulting and education, said women have a high level of emotional intelligence and a unique perspective on problems and cybersecurity benefits from this extra flair.
Al-Mheiri said there is a misconception that women are not qualified to succeed in a male-dominated society.
“I have received praise and support from my male counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It’s been nothing but positivity for me,” she said.
Mary O’Brien, general manager of IBM, said that throughout her journey, she has met with opportunity, respect and inclusion. However, as a woman, she said, “I am very aware of the lack of women around the table and the lack of diverse thought that comes with that.”
Role models and allies are critical to creating change, she told Arab News.
The report quotes more than 70 percent of respondents as saying that a role model encouraged them to learn more about the industry and pursue a degree in cybersecurity.
Many women feel more confident about pushing forward when they see another woman moving through the ranks, she said.
Ultimately, O’Brien suggested engaging young females in STEM early on and helping break some of the stigmas that limit their progress.
RIYADH: The Riyadh Airports Company, which manages and operates King Khalid International Airport, said that it is working on implementing standards designed to make the airport and its services more accessible and user friendly for Chinese visitors.
The company said the new facilities will improve the visitor experience for tourists from China by helping to overcome the language barrier and providing key services, including payment systems that are compatible with those in their home country.
The improvements are in line with the Welcome Chinese Certification program, which is considered the international standard for travel and hospitality services for visitors from the country. The project also highlights the availability of e-visas for Chinese travelers who want to visit the Kingdom.
The enhanced services on offer to Chinese travelers at the airport include a range of publications translated into Chinese, including booklets, maps and other information, in addition to billboards and flight information in the language.
Visitors from China will also be able to use the UnionPay payment system throughout the airport, along with other payment methods such as WeChat Pay and Alipay.
The Welcome Chinese Certification was developed and is issued by the China Tourism Academy in cooperation with marketing and communications business Select Holding Limited.
Saudi Arabia is the process of developing and expanding its tourism sector to attract more international visitors. In Riyadh, there are a growing number of events and attractions designed to appeal to locals and tourists alike, including the Riyadh Season and Diriyah Season programs of events.
Ebtisam Al-Wehaibi has been the general manager of intangible cultural heritage at the Ministry of Culture’s Heritage Commission since 2021.
She is responsible for overseeing and managing the ICH sector across the Kingdom, and developing and promoting traditional and cultural value through research and documentation.
Al-Wehaibi has also been a UNESCO-certified facilitator since 2019, where she provides advisory services and capacity building training.
From 2020 to 2021, she was program director at the Misk Foundation’s Heritage Institute overseeing operations, project approvals and academic content.
Prior to that, Al-Wehaibi served as head of the ICH department at the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society from 2015.
At the SHPS, she was the project manager of the inventory of ICH in the Kingdom, and was nominated for the Arab States Training of Trainers workshop under the 2003 UNESCO convention.
Al-Wehaibi joined Sultan bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City in 2009 and occupied several positions until 2014.
She worked as a team leader and the head of the translation section where she supervised and managed translators and interpreters.
Al-Wehaibi holds a bachelor’s degree in languages and translation from King Saud University, and a heritage resources management diploma from Sharjah Institute for Heritage.
She is a board member of the Saudi International Council on Monuments and Sites and Al-Nahda Society.
Al-Wehaibi is Saudi Arabia’s representative at the annual meetings of the intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of ICH, and a participant in the General Assembly meetings of the international convention for the safeguarding of ICH at UNESCO’s headquarters.
During 2020 and 2021, she was a BigSib mentor for the nonprofit Project1932, which focuses on developing emerging leaders, or LittleSibs, in Saudi Arabia.
RIYADH: The interior ministers of Gulf Cooperation Council countries held their 39th meeting at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the GCC in Riyadh on Wednesday.
The meeting was led by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif in the presence of GCC Secretary-General Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf with the participation of the ministers from UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.
Prince Abdulaziz conveyed the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and their wishes for the meeting’s success.
He wished Qatar success for the football World Cup, and congratulated Sheikh Talal Khaled Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah for his appointment as first deputy prime minister and minister of interior of Kuwait.
Prince Abdulaziz said that the meeting embodied the spirit of brotherhood and joint Gulf cooperation in confronting and eliminating security challenges.
“Our meeting takes place in light of the dangers and challenges that some countries in the world are going through, which threaten their security and stability,” he said.
He added that such instability “emphasizes the importance of adhering to the unity of the council, strengthening joint action, and increasing the pace of cooperation and coordination among the security services in our countries.”
The prince said that the council must “confront everything that threatens the security and safety of citizens and residents and maintain the security, stability, development and growth that our countries have achieved.”
The meeting discussed common security issues and reviewed the reports on this year’s Saudi-organized, joint-GCC security service exercise, known as Arab Gulf Security 3, and preparations for the fourth exercise next year organized by the Ministry of Interior in Qatar.