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Kingdom connect: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Economic City

James Dartnell | April 22, 2014
Anyone taking a brisk drive through Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Economic City would be easily misled. At the moment, it doesn't look like much of a city. There is a road network, a scattering of office and residential buildings, and a stunning coastline.

Albakri feels that blooding candidates early on in their careers gives them a vital head start. Saudia recruits candidates between the ages of 21-23 who it feels are bright enough to act as forerunners in the next generation of technology development. "Companies often send their employees on four or five day courses for training in how to use new software or processes," he says. "In my opinion, the skills and knowledge the individual picks up in this period of time are not enough; for most people they dissipate quickly. By the same token, it may take three years to fully mould a university graduate into an organisation's culture after they have finished their education. With our Innovation Nucleus, we can realistically cut this to six months, and provide the exact training that a graduate needs to work in IT by teaching them the core skills of R&D from Cisco-certified engineers."

Albakri says he drew inspiration from a series of leading vendors in designing plans for Saudia's data centre, the construction of which will begin in five months. Albakri says the facility will be scalable — and crucially — purpose-built for the region. "There is absolutely no point in building a data centre that is identical to one in the US or Europe," he says. "We face different challenges here, so we need to build data centres that can face them. That means taking into account our climate and power consumption; we have 12 hours of sunlight here each day for much of the year, so why waste millions of dollars cooling the centre when you can harness that power?" With this in mind, Albakri has commissioned the construction of a 'cocoon' exterior to the centre, which has movable metal panels, which could shield the building in the event of a sandstorm, and can insulate it in times of extreme heat. He is also keen to install large numbers of solar panels to underline the ethos of "Green IT" in the site, to reduce power costs and remain environmentally friendly. This policy of region-specific construction will also be consistent in housing developments throughout the city.

A key pillar of Albakri's vision for KAEC is turning it into a Smart City. He envisages emergency services, household appliances and a host other things being driven by smart technology. "Making KAEC a Smart City will vastly improve its residents' lives," he says. "IT is the central nervous system of KAEC's socio-economic development, and this will attract and retain the best and brightest that Saudi has to offer, and help them to achieve their dreams."

For Albakri, this means that for the next generation of Saudi talent, best-of-breed technology is a pre-requisite for day-to-day quality of life, "For young people these days technology is part-and-parcel in anything they do that is information-driven," he says. "In my daughter's school they don't even use books anymore. In order to drive the growth that we need there has to be the best technology available for KAEC's citizens. Creating this Smart City will in turn drive huge demand for systems integrators and solutions providers, which in itself creates economic growth for the city."


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