Riyadh online for digital city status

Intel is working with the Communication and Information Commission (CITC) of Saudi Arabia on an ambitious scheme to make Riyadh a wireless city.

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By  Peter Branton Published  November 20, 2005

ntel is working with the Communication and Information Commission (CITC) of Saudi Arabia on an ambitious scheme to make Riyadh a wireless city. The chip giant also anno- unced initiatives that will see up to US$150million invested in technology firms in the region. The governor of the CITC, Dr Mohammed Al Suwaiyel, anno- unced last week that the Saudi capital will become one of ten “Digital Cities” that Intel is wor-king with globally to promote the usage of WiMax technology. “We consider this to be an important visit and the Kingdom will benefit from Intel’s expertise in the ICT arena,” he said in a statement. “We will turn Riyadh into one of ten wireless cities in the world,” said Aysegul Ildeniz, regional director for Intel Middle East, Turkey and Africa. “The city, its government departments, the businesses, eve- ry person will be able to get wireless access to the internet,” she declared. An Intel executive said the chip giant would be providing technical expertise and consulting services to the CITC for the WiMax project. While the two were still working on the planning stages, she said they were looking at a 2006 timeframe for the implementation. The announcements were made as part of a regional tour last week by Intel chairman Craig Barrett. “The expansion of information and communication technology is a high priority for the Saudi government,” he claimed. This is investing in ICT as the next natural resource,” he added. The CITC and Intel have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work on the Digital City project and a number of other initiatives, incl- uding work on the CITC’s Ho-me Computing Initiative and a scheme to provide computers and networking equipment for small and medium-sized businesses in the region. Intel also announced two separate venture capital funding initiatives last week, both aimed at promoting regional technology growth. Intel’s venture capital arm, Intel Capital, has created the Intel Capital Middle East and Turkey Fund, which will invest US$50million in technology companies covering hardwa- re, services, wireless solutions and local content development. Intel Capital is also working with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) on another project, which will see US$100million invested in tech firms located in or having a connection with the Kingdom and the surrounding Gulf states. “This is possibly the biggest announcement that we have made in this part of the world,” said Ildeniz. “It definitely shows the commitment that we have to this region,” she added. While Intel executives said the funding would help to stimulate technological innovation in the region, the fund is aimed at working with companies “that complement Intel’s technology and platform initiatives,” it said. Areas that Intel Capital is focusing on include broadband infrastructure and mobile wireless solutions, local content developers and providers, digital health solutions and other software solutions. The various announcements all come under the umbrella of Intel’s ‘Digital Transformation Initiative’, which it announced last month (see IT Weekly 29 October – 4 November 2005). The scheme will see Intel more than double its workforce in the region. The Digital Cities initiative is also part of a wider scheme with Intel working with governments across the world to develop WiMax technology usage. Other cities in the scheme include London, Madrid, Taipei and Osaka. “This collaboration will make Riyadh the first of Saudi Arabia’s digital cities and one of the leading digital cities around the world,” Dr Al Suwaiyel said.

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