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Current Affairs ( 19 Sept 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Makkah to be turned into smart city

P.K. Abdul Ghafour I Arab News

Friday 19 September 2008 (19 Ramadan 1429)       


JEDDAH: A two-day international conference on intelligent cities will be held in Makkah in January next year with the objective of transforming Makkah into a smart city with advanced technological facilities.


Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal will open the conference at Umm Al-Qura University’s King Abdul Aziz Historical Hall on Jan. 19. It will bring together a large number of experts from around the world to discuss the best ways to apply intelligent city concept to Makkah.


The conference will be organized by the Makkah Municipality in association with the Communications and Information Technology Commission and the Haj Research Center. “This is the largest conference on intelligent cities to be held in the Kingdom,” said Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar.


“It aims at expediting the use of smart city technologies in Makkah for the benefit of the millions of pilgrims who come to the city every year for Haj and Umrah,” the mayor said.


He said the conference would contribute to improving the services being rendered by various government departments in the city to both citizens and pilgrims. “It will make Makkah a model for other Muslim cities around the world.”


“This conference is an initiative to apply smart city technologies in the Kingdom and transform it into a knowledge-based society and a digital economy,” the mayor pointed out. The presence of intelligent city facilities will speed up communication with the outside world and boost cultural, economic and commercial development, Al-Bar said, adding that the conference would discuss successful experiments in the field at national and international levels.


The transformation of Makkah into a world-class intelligent city will help address the needs of pilgrims from around the world, said Mohammed Maqazi, head of the conference’s scientific committee.


“The pilgrims need accommodations, meals, information and communication channels, and various modes of transportation. A combination of the latest technologies that integrate fixed and wireless broadband networks, fixed and mobile GIS and GPS applications, and user-friendly information and communications points can greatly enhance the visitors experience, and the city's objective of quality services to the visitors of the holy sites,” he explained.


He said discussions at the conference would include e-government, safety control systems and security applications, intelligent city management applications, and how to develop a large community of users with ICT skills.


While the availability of the needed broadband infrastructure is the central issue for the needed transformation, the conference will also address the need to improve city services to residents and guests, boost productivity, enhance global communications, and provide state-of-the-art emergency response and disaster mitigation applications.


There will be workshops on e-government services suite, GIS based planning and management applications, mobile GIS emergency response applications, security, law enforcement and safety control applications.