Women leading Saudi Arabia's tech revolution

Women leading Saudi Arabia's tech revolution
Published: 8 October 2018 - 10:51 a.m.
By: Lubna Hamdan

Women in Saudi are becoming more involved in the kingdom’s tech revolution, according to Hisham Elaraby, the regional director for MENA at online education platform Udacity.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Elaraby said Saudi women are particularly interested in four tech areas, including android development.

“Digital marketing is one of Saudi women’s preferred topics. There is also front end web development, data in all its forms, and android development. We see a lot of women learning to be android developers,” he said.

AI to data science


Around 65% of the students taking part if Udacity’s programme in Saudi Arabia, which runs in partnership with the MiSK foundation, are female.

The Silicon Valley-based education technology company offers nanodegrees that cover an array of subjects ranging from self-driving cars and AI to data science and digital marketing. Its aim is to upskilling students for jobs of the future, but also update current skills of older workforce.

Content for their programs are created in partnership with leading organisations including Google, Facebook, Amazon and IBM. In Saudi, Udacity also offers the MISK Program scholarship for nearly 3,000 Saudi students interested in mobile and web development, machine learning, business analysis and programming.

Strong mandate
Elaraby said it is important to integrate the topics into the region’s overall curriculums.

“It’s extremely important to include AI and machine learning into the region’s educational systems. Is the region ready for that? We may not have many large tech start ups that are coming into the scene, with which you would typically associate AI and machine learning, but we have a few.


"We have the Souqs and the Careems of this world who are definitely using machine learning to deliver their services. But the demand is much wider than that,” he said, referring to other traditional businesses such as telecom operators or banks.

“As retailers, [they] are coming to grips with the idea that they are sitting on a lot of data and that the future will be about how they use this data to deliver a better customer experience. So people who are hiring machine learning experts are not only the start ups, but also the government.

"In Dubai specifically, government service providers such as DEWA or RTA have a strong mandate to digitise and adopt technology. The demand is more far reaching than one would expect,” he said.

While Udacity does not aim to compete with existing universities, it urges educational organisations to update their curriculums with tech topics, according to Elaraby.

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