RIYADH, November 15, 2017 – The second edition of the MiSK Global Forum kicked off on Wednesday in the Saudi capital, with the biggest youth-focused event in the Middle East drawing a line-up of top international, regional and local speakers on technology, youth, education, science, entrepreneurship and innovation.
The November 15-16 forum, in its second yearly edition now, is organized by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Philanthropic Foundation (MiSK) and links young leaders, innovators and thinkers with well-known innovators from around the world.
Speakers included Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan; the Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Abdullah Al Swaha; the Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment, Dr. Majed Al Qassabi; LinkedIn co-founder Alan Blue; Skype co-founder Jonas Kielberg; and executives from EMC, Google, Microsoft, IBM, GE and Intel, among others.
Microsoft founder Bill Gate spoke on Tuesday night, ahead of the official opening of the forum, after the announcement of a new initiative between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the MiSK Foundation that aims to encourage innovation that can transform the world in a positive way.
The two foundations will provide a total of $10 million to support the MiSK Grand Challenges with an array of challenges to be announced in coming years, to follow the first two challenges — an education challenge to transform teaching and school leadership and a global citizenship challenge focused on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Entrants get seed money and promising projects can apply for additional funds to bring ideas to fruition.
“Through the work of our foundation, I have seen the incredible power of innovation to transform the lives of the world’s poorest and most marginalized people,” Bill Gates said in a statement. “MiSK Grand Challenges will incentivize more of the brightest minds around the world to find the best ideas to solve some of the toughest development challenges.”
In an address in Arabic to the forum on Wednesday, followed by a series of Arabic and English tweets on her official Twitter account, Queen Rania said: “Never before has the need been greater for us to connect, exchange knowledge, and expand innovation. Our world is suffering from a scarcity of hope.”
She spoke about what the Arab world currently needs, and questioned how it will adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution when it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world today.
“I believe we need to re-evaluate our motives behind acquiring technology. Rather than a race to the top for the privileged few, our priority should be employing technology to empower entire societies,” she said.
“What we need is technology with a heart – one that beats for all of us,” Queen Rania said.
“Let us adopt technologies that add value to our lives and keep hope alive in our Arab youth, for they are our source of pride,” Queen Rania said. “I have met so many young Arabs who have risen by the merits of their innovations, overcoming the most extreme odds to shine in scientific and literary fields.”
“Let us broaden their horizons, and provide them with opportunities to realize their potential and achieve their ambitions. Let us inspire them to feel that the future is theirs, as we strive to create a fertile land for us and our children, a land where dreams are nurtured and can bear fruit.”
SAUDI ARABIA IS OPENING UP FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ambitious plan to diversity the economy beyond oil dependence, has youth as a key focus, with estimates that 70 percent of the Kingdom’s population under the age of 30.
The Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment, Dr. Majed Al Qassabi, spoke about the recent positive changes in the Kingdom, especially pertaining to youth.
“Saudi Arabia is opening its market for young entrepreneurs from all over the world. We hope they add value to Saudi Arabia,” Al Qassabi said in a speech. “Five years from now, we want to be the best in the region for ease of doing business.”
Abdullah Al Swaha, the Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, said the Kingdom is keen on leveraging technology in many sectors.
“We are building infrastructure as we are transforming, making sure we are connected by technology, making sure we leverage the power of technology in every field – from medicine and business to education,” said Al Swaha, speaking at the plenary session.
“Today is our opportunity to enrich the beautiful stories we hear from other parts of the world,” Al Swaha noted.
“This country is for dreamers, not doubters. We should be embracing the future.”
Commenting on the launch of the MiSK Grand Challenges, MiSK Secretary-General Bader Al-Asaker said the collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an important and essential initiative for the MiSK Foundation.
“Tackling global issues demands global partnerships,” Al-Asaker said in the statement, adding that MiSK Grand Challenges will directly empower young people by providing them with the research grants necessary to give them the chance to innovate new solutions.
“A positive future can be shaped by the next generation and MiSK Grand Challenges will act as a vital catalyst in this process,” he added.