2018 is already proving to be the year for the Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies, with the world’s biggest online VRAR event already underway. Starting Tuesday, January 16, the VR/AR Online Conference will continue for entire two weeks coming to an end on Tuesday, Jan 30. An international organization with a mission to foster collaboration between innovative companies and people in the virtual reality and augmented reality ecosystem, the VR/AR Association (VRARA) helps growth and development opportunities for the technology industry, servicing recommendations for industry standards as well as connecting member organizations and promoting the services of member companies.
The association touches upon many committees such as aerospace, architecture, education, enterprise, healthcare, marketing, training, real estate and retail, to name some of them. With the objective to accelerate smart growth at a global scale for the VRAR industry, the association conducts Chapters in major cities around the world to help the local industries connect with global opportunities.
As this global technological transformation takes Middle East by storm, Dubai has been in the midst of all the action and happenings. A visionary leader with a visible enthusiasm for innovation in education and training, the UAE Vice President and the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has left no stone unturned in chalking the path for technology revolution in the Middle East. Dictated by the UAE Vision 2021 for pursuing a knowledge-based, sustainable economy, the government has taken all the necessary steps and initiatives ensuring that the youth and young entrepreneurs in the Middle East have all the right opportunities to access and take advantage from the latest trends in technology. HH Sheikh bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision is apparent with his decision to appoint the world’s first ever Minister of Artificial Intelligence, His Excellency Omar bin Sultan Al Olama. The appointment of the 27 year old minister is not only a testament to Sheikh Al Maktoum’s faith in the youth but also a message to the world that Middle East will not lag behind in the race of innovation and acquiring modern knowledge and technology.
Speaking to the UAE Cabinet in November, Omar bin Sultan al Olama expressed his views about the future potential of AI, “Artificial Intelligence can help solve some of the world’s problems.” (link)
Representing Middle East in the VR/AR Conference, the region’s leading AR/VR/Ai Strategist, Dr. Sana Farid was one of the speakers for VRAR in Training. A distinguished entrepreneur and ambassador to women empowerment programs, Dr. Sana is predominantly involved in supporting government and non-government initiatives in education, corporate training, consultancy and technological infrastructure. Having quickly risen to international fame and recognition in the VR/AR community, Dr. Sana is a technology enthusiast and the Co-Founder & CEO of Bahrain-based innovation company, Munfarid Consulting. Expressing her views about the VR/AR conference, Dr. Sana said, “The VR/AR Online Conference brings the global Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality communities closer together enabling a robust and fruitful interaction between like-minded entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts and a chance to learn and acquire knowledge from each other. It is a moment of great pride for me to have the opportunity to represent MENA region in the conference.”
The conference is indeed an ideal platform form VRAR devotees everywhere as it affords them the opportunity to connect with brilliant entrepreneurs, engineers, researchers, designers, marketers, manufacturers and retailers from all over the world. A perfect chance to network with businesses and leading solution providers, and learn about the commercial applications of VR and AR across a host of industries such as aviation, architecture, healthcare, real estate, oil and gas, and many more.
MANAMA – KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN, 17TH JANUARY, 2018 – As Bahrain continues to develop fast in the education sector, the new year opens with the fourth Bahrain Schools and Childcare Expo 2018, scheduled to start on Thursday 18th January 2018 at Bahrain International Exhibition Center. The Expo will go on for three consecutive days until 20th January. After the huge success of the Third Bahrain Family Expo (BSC & MNC) 2017, this event is also expected to draw huge crowds, becoming bigger and better than ever.
Since Bahrain Economic Vision 2030 pushes the shift of oil-based economy towards a more knowledge-dependent one, the education sector has become one of the most prioritized sectors in order to train next generation of young Bahrainis for the challenges of a massively technology-oriented future. The government has been putting a lot of importance to raising the local educational standards, and has heavily funded initiatives to this end. The efforts have certainly come to fruition as the local schools excelled at some very important platforms such as the Quality of Education prize being won by the two government elementary schools, Rabia Al Adawia and Al Roudha at the Government Forum 2017. The event was held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Prime Minister. The Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa was also present at the ceremony.
In addition, another milestone was achieved by the local education sector as the Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) was awarded to Bahrain Bayan School, beating four other finalists. The prestigious ZFEP award recognizes the advanced initiatives intended to promote and encourage the sustainable use of energy. HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa commended HE Dr. Shaikha Mai bint Sulaiman Al Otaibi, the Chairperson of the Bahrain Bayan School Board of Directors, in recognition of the school’s outstanding performance. [link]
Since the private sector is equally important in building the economy of the country, the government has kept the private sector institutes in the loop by providing them all the necessary opportunities and facilities to grow and further develop. The government has taken the approach to partner up with private sector schools in many fields so as to accelerate the efforts in improving the performance of private schools. As a result, the private schools have achieved many successful milestones including the Al Emaan School representing in the delegation of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the Arab Reading Challenge Award, being sponsored by the UAE Vice President and the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa further supported the private sector by issuing direct recommendations to grant further privileges and autonomy to schools that demonstrate a high quality performance in future. His Excellency Dr Majid bin Ali Al-Nuaimi, the Minister of Education, took immediate notice of this policy issuing a ministerial decision to provide several advantages to the high-performing private schools as encouragement for them to continue to improve the performance level as well as to motivate the other schools to perform well.
The Bahrain Education & Training Quality Authority (generally known as the BQA) is the guiding organization that reviews the quality of education and training practiced by the public and private schools, vocational and training institutions as well as higher education institutes and their academic programs. This evaluation is carried out against the criteria and standards set by the BQA which is published openly for public access, and also involves assigning qualifications to the education and training institutions in accordance with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) as per the requirements of the domestic, regional and international labor markets. In addition to all that, a new accreditation system has recently been initiated by the Bahrain Higher Education Council (HEC) in order to accommodate the changes taking place are in the field of higher education, and due to the arrival of foreign universities offering courses both in partnership with domestic universities as well as at their own local campuses.
With the objective of encouraging the local Bahraini youth towards more technical and technological fields, the National Higher Education Strategy 2014 – 24 focuses on increasing the student enrollments in areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The objective is to train and develop the local human resources in order to progressively replace the expatriate staff in the private sector workforce. The government realizes the importance of innovation and creativity based learning in helping to accomplish the end goal which is why technology is increasingly playing a major role in education in Bahrain. The Minister of Education, Majid bin Ali Al-Nuaimi stressed the significance of technology in the classroom in one of his interviews saying, “A top priority is to get the best technology available for our classrooms, making sure that we can address the needs of every student individually.” [link]
To this end, it is not surprising to see that the local technology companies and consultancies are growing at a fast rate. In fact, one of the biggest innovation companies is a proud Bahrain-based startup called Munfarid Consulting that has fast become a force to reckon with in the Middle East. Munfarid has been involved at many edu-tech platforms both locally and regionally, and has earned many international partnerships in the process. The company is leading the way in innovation all over the region aligning its goals in accordance with government’s vision to push the country forward by developing a highly educated and trained workforce as the key to a thriving and prosperous economic sector.
In appreciation of all these efforts taken by the Bahrain government in promoting education, science and social development as per UNESCO’s global standards , Kingdom of Bahrain has also won international recognition and recently been elected as one of the Vice Presidents of UNESCO’s 39th General Assembly, held in Paris on 30 October 2017. The Kingdom of Bahrain was unanimously nominated by the Arab group winning the confidence of the General Assembly’s members. [link]
It will be interesting to see what new initiatives the government will further take in the on-going year. For now, Bahrain Schools and Childcare Expo provides a great one stop-shop opportunity for education sector, healthcare facilities as well as kids’ entertainment providers to exhibit their offerings at the exhibition. The expo also offers a chance for the participants to engage with parents and families through interactive expert seminars, stage entertainment, information stalls, student charity market as well as play areas for children.
A few years ago, a session of World Economic Forum commenced with a declaration. The declaration was a “New Era of ‘Talentism’, which stated that human imagination and innovation are the driving forces behind economies”.
Imagine this scenario.
Every school across the globe has an innovative education system whose reach is far beyond report cards. Students don’t have to acquire ‘job-ready’ skills after they pass out. The skills are inculcated subtly throughout their academic years. A holistic future school where talent is truly valued. Our future generation, our most precious resource, stays abreast of the changing time.
Yes, it’s possible and devoted nations like UAE are working on it.
In the ongoing month of February, the UAE government and Emirati citizens have come together to celebrate innovation. With a month full of activities, people are participating in competitions, exhibitions, and other activities. The innovation program is being observed across the seven emirates to cultivate innovation and ingenuity in the society. The countrywide celebration that kicked off in Abu Dhabi on the 1st of February will be reaching other emirates throughout the month.
The thoughtful slogan for the month is – “Innovation Starts with You.”
The theme of this innovation month is inspired by the vision of the Honorable late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. “The UAE Innovation Month will focus on four aspects inspired
from our founding father — the innovative leader, the creative thinker, the change maker and the inspirational thinker”, said Her Excellency Huda Al Hashimi.
Contributing to the success of UAE Innovation Month is a proud Bahraini EdTech influencer and entrepreneur, Dr. Sana Farid, who is a Virtual Reality strategist, Middle East Women of Wearables Ambassador and President, VRAR Association Co-Chapter President for Middle East, and has been ranked among top 101 women in ARVR globally, emphasizes the role of innovation and the never-ending need to evolve.
The EdTech trainer who had previously flagged off the ‘Go To School’ Program in UAE last October is currently helping the emiratis keep up the momentum of this Innovation Month.
Dr. Sana is demonstrating the many uses of Virtual Reality in Education at the UAE Innovation Hub Dubai. Google Innovation Hub is a revolutionary step to harness innovation in students and enhance their digital creativity. The fair and innovative program inspires youth to transmute their tech obsessions into successful businesses. The first of its kind center in the Middle East, the Hub can host up to 120 students daily to impart skills in 3D printing, laser cutting, machine learning, app development, robotics, etc.
Besides the overwhelming feedback from visitors and government delegates at the innovation hub, the Bahraini entrepreneur Dr. Sana had a proud moment of being visited by UAE’s Minister of Interior, H.E. Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His Excellency, who was there for the launch of Innovation hub, seemed to be deeply immersed in exploring Virtual Reality. Throughout the event, he was seen interacting with the participants, especially the younger members, which gave a major boost to their confidence. He was escorted by other Government ministers and representatives of Google.
When asked about her experience in Reality Technologies and the outcome of such events, Dr. Sana said, “When government and citizens join hands, catching the bus to an innovation-led future is easy. We must acknowledge the changes occurring around us and adapt for a sustainable tomorrow. A successful transition with time will take us ahead and keep us going.”
Dedicated investments in building a human empire have life-changing benefits. The Middle East countries are steadily proving this while wisely investing in their human resource.