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Saudi e-commerce conference lauded by major Saudi industry experts

Local industry spokesmen say it is time to talk frankly about the obstacles to e-commerce within the Kingdom before serious money is committed.

Saudi Arabian businessmen have greeted the upcoming E-commerce Saudi Arabia conference with enthusiasm, citing the need for a wider understanding of the issues before e-commerce can be a reality in the Kingdom. The conference takes place May 6-9 and promises to be the largest e-commerce event held to date in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Confirmed speakers at the conference include guests as far afield as the United States, UK and Malaysia. The United Nations will also send representatives and the technology industry will be present in force.

Confirmed hi-tech names include Microsoft, Sun, Intel, Nokia and Arthur Andersen. Independent market analyst Meta Group will also be speaking.

The conference, which will be organised by Riyadh Exhibitions Company, was announced by heavy-hitters in the Saudi Arabian e-commerce game, including Dr Fawaz Alami, deputy minister for technical affairs, KSA Ministry of Commerce; Dr Abdullah Al Rasheed, VP of scientific research at KACST; and Khalid Al Gari, chairman of the organising committee.

The conference’s findings are expected to significantly influence the development of Internet, e-business and technology policies in the Kingdom.

“I am optimistic that sooner or later we will have e-commerce, an e-government, and it may not be our choice, we have to have it. But I don’t want to have e-commerce or e-government where I can’t trust it. And that trust is about two aspects. The first is the infrastructure—the failure—the [current] network will have a large percentage of failure every day, or every week, or every month. The second aspect is the security. I am not looking to be secure 100%, there are gaps, and we can fill those gaps and we can work out a better way. It happens everywhere, in all parts of the world,” Abdullah Mohaisen, general manager for Al Alamiah, told ITP.net.

“Before we are ready for e-commerce, we have to communicate in a proper way so that we can understand what are the prerequisites, what are the requirements, for e-commerce to be tangible. STC has to move and they have to move quickly and do it right the first time. Maybe if we bring a consultant for e-commerce it is too early now. What we need is a consultant for the infrastructure,” he added.

Mohaisen said that non-standardisation over issues such as the use of applications for PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) still present obstacles to Saudi Arabian e-commerce initiatives. “The applications that drive PKI are not yet in place. Now it is being supervised by SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority), and they will make it mandatory for banks to have PKI. But today, they will not tell them what level of PKI to take.”

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