Arab News – Beginning with the brainstorming session on Wednesday, the seventh Riyadh Economic Forum (REF 2015) made a clarion call for creating an institutional entity focused on knowledge-based economy that will better serve the government agencies and help with a road map for sustainable economic development in the Kingdom.

The forum, which continues at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center (RICEC), was inaugurated with the support of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Tuesday night.
The technical sessions began on Wednesday when the call was given at the opening session entitled “Development of the ICT sector as a catalyst for development and transition into a knowledge-based economy.”
Speaking at the session, the experts stressed the need for strengthening the manufacturing component of the information and communications technology (ICT) and allow the ICT sector to flourish in the Kingdom as it would help straighten the imbalance caused by the predominance of distribution activities of commercial agencies.
They asserted that this move is necessary given the availability of promising opportunities for creating a viable national industry in this sector across the Kingdom.
The specialist speakers went on to recommend that the ICT sector needs professional expertise to address the current deficit in the professional disciplines and its future needs for human skills, therefore institutional entity focused on knowledge-based economy is essential to convert the untapped youth potential into human capital.
They, however, maintained that this requires good planning for the education system in the Kingdom to ensure output compatibility of technical expertise required in the ICT sector and further help in achieving the visionary goal to streamline the labor market.
Moreover, they recommended the diversification of ICT products and the trend toward commercialization of modern products in all major sectors, especially the application of cloud computing in the field of university education system, besides revitalization of electronic transactions for the retail sector.
The session was presided over by Mohammed bin Suleiman Al-Jasser, adviser at the Royal Court.
Speaking at the session Ali Bin Saleh, adviser to the telecommunication and IT minister, called for the development of legislative frameworks and regulations to facilitate the ICT sector for sustainable growth.
The session had a study-based presentation made by head of its supervising team Abdul Rahman El-Arini and Najah Alqublan, a faculty member at Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, which highlighted on the application of an integrated statistical system to meet the data and information related to the ICT sector.
This specialized study by the forum team focused on strategy to enable the Kingdom to shift from its economic reliance on oil, to an advanced economy based on knowledge and technology.
The second session of the day on renewable and alternative energy focused around the vision to help the Kingdom diversify the economy by reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuel with renewable and alternative sources of energy.
Notably, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) is working closely with several government agencies, including the Ministry of Transportation, Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) and the Directorate-General of Military Survey and signed an atomic deal with several countries to speed up work on an atlas of renewable energy in order to achieve its vision 2032, which aims to replace 50 percent of the dependence on traditional fossil fuel with atomic and renewed energy.
Prince Turki bin Saud Al-Saud, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), who chaired the session, asserted that K.A.CARE and KACST are working together and can come close in the national interest to reach an amicable solution on the renewable energy as the responsible agencies of the government that will help substantially to reduce dependence on petrol and diesel for electricity generation.
He noted that KACST is working on the green energy projects in order to diversify energy sources and along with other responsible countries, which came together at the climate change summit in Paris. KSA too is committed for eco-friendly energy program.
Commenting on the Kingdom’s recent forays into renewable energy, he said the solar powered desalination plant aimed at treating 60,000 sqm seawater daily for the northeastern city of Al-Khafji will be functional by next year.
He added that this will be the first utility scale, solar powered desalination plant in the world.
Another speaker, Saleh bin Eid Al-Hussaini, chairman of the committee on economic affairs and energy program, Shoura Council, echoed the sentiment saying the energy sector is of strategic value playing significant role in sustainable development with diversifying the sources.
He pointed out those private stakeholders helping in renewable energy development program and said the government should extend incentives to encourage them.
“With petroleum prices at one of the lowest in the history, it is proper time for us to speed up work on renewable energy and rationalize our energy production,” he said.
Mamdooh bin Saud bin Thunayyan Al-Saud, director of Sustainable Energy Technologies Center at the King Saud University spoke on scientific side of the renewable energy.
Maahir bin Abdullah Al-Oudan, heading the supervising committee of the study on renewable energy conducted by the forum, made a presentation on the developments in alternative energy. He stressed that the private sector through the REF should help create conducive atmosphere for the Kingdom for the evaluation of alternative energy sector and recommend the wind and solar energy program as a viable option being the easiest and natural sources of alternative energy.
The forum will conclude on Thursday.

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