Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia: Cognitive computing and women entrepreneurship

In January 2016, I designed and developed the IBM Watson Cognitive Computing Project – in partnership with IBM Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)/New York/Chicago, Dublin City University, Princess Nourah bin Abdulrahman University, and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

I developed a module around a high-tech marketing case study that introduced to 58 second year, Marketing, Innovation and Technology – Digital DCU at PNU students to the concepts of cognitive computing, human-computer interaction, app development, artificial intelligence, cloud, and data analytics to meet client needs within specific industries such as healthcare, financial services, and government.

The result were 14 cognitive business ideas, 14 infographic posters that articulated how their proposed Watson solution could help business users uncover new insights in KSA, and a sales pitch which was presented to practitioners at IBM KSA.

Computing and marketing students came together to exchange knowledge in market strategy, marketing and technology, and app development.

The top cognitive business solutions and our entire initiative were presented by myself and the students in a Technology meetup held in Riyadh in April 2016. The Meetup was organised by the IBMer Susan Malaika to foster collaboration between educational institutions, to deliberate on new technologies particularly in the context of KSA, and to share the activities and achievements of professional institutions for women in the region.

I presented our initiative, which was the first one on its type in Saudi Arabia, to an audience of academics and researchers from King Saud University (KSU), King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) Princess Nourah University (PNU), Prince Sultan University (PSU), and IBM.

  • Chaperon : Nadiyah Khlalid AlMutairi, Maram Abdulmohsin AlDawood – an application that reduces passenger anxiety when navigating through airports
  • Shopido : Alaa Mohammed Aljarad, Nouf Mohammed Alkhaldi – a Retail and Consumer product, the more you use it, the better it knows you
  • Unibus : Hawraa Abdulelah AlNakhli – an app to help universities control and manage the bus services for students
  • Zakat : Waad Mohammed AlSultan – a financial app that tracks and manages the zakat tax that corporations pay

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The presentation of our initiative generated such an enthusiasm among the attendees that I finally partnered with King Saud University (KSU), King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). The result? Over summer 2016, KACST ran an internship with two students from KSU to implement one of the DCU at PNU Business School cognitive business solution KeepUp – a car maintenance application. After coaching the students on the app interface and the usability and Watson applications, the app was fully developed by the end of the summer.

The project was such a success that I presented at the World of Watson IBM annual conference at Las Vegas, 23-27 October 2016.

I participated in the Evolving Education with Cognitive and Data Science, the IBM for Academics track with brought together faculty, academic and industry leaders to explore how to rapidly evolve academic programs and research to satisfy the exploding demand for graduates skilled in cognitive and data sciences (Visit website here for full details). 

I presented in the Cognitive Science Education track, as outlined below:

Merging Tech & Marketing in a Cognitive World
Randy Hvalac, Northwestern

Next generation cognitive curriculum
Jim Spohrer, IBM

The nexus of society, data and cognitive sciences: Driving the evolution of curriculum
Nitesh Chawla, Notre Dame

Co-Innovation Strategies for Empowering the Bottom of the Pyramid
Solomon Darwin UC Berkeley

Cognitive as an enabler of tech entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia
Artemisa Jaramillo, Princess Noura University

Experiences integrating Watson into my courses
Gordon Pipa, Universität Osnabrück

After the feedback in this session, I came to the realization that I had designed what I called Technology Product Management: Creating a template for collaboration between Business Studies and Computer Science with Industry Partners


Technology Product Management: Creating a template for collaboration between Business and Computer Science with Industry Partners in Emerging Markets to foster innovation and entrepreneurial thinking

Link to blog post by Susan Malaika, IBM, USA that describes the proposal for collaboration between industry partners, business studies and/or computer science departments at universities for developing technology product management and software delivery skills particularly in developing economies and emerging markets.

Published by @digitalmisa

Digital behaviourist and technologist (PhD). I am passionate about talent development, especially when it comes to enabling women and youth to achieve inclusion. I have 20 years experience working in America, Europe and the Middle East from politics to government to education to management. I love writing, traveling, history, vegan tacos, and escaping to Italy every time I can!

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