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RIYADH: Cisco Networking Academy, a global information technology and cybersecurity education program run by Cisco Systems, has trained 300,000 youths in Saudi Arabia to acquire digital, networking and cybersecurity skills, said a senior official.

Guy Diedrich, Cisco’s senior vice president and global innovation officer, told Arab News that the academy provides free training, education and skill development, besides empowering women in the information technology space.

“Out of 65,000 currently enrolled in Saudi Arabia, 30 percent are female, which is higher than the global average,” said Diedrich.

Salman Faqeeh, Cisco’s managing director in KSA, told Arab News at the Global AI Summit in Riyadh that the company is strongly committed to Saudi education by being integral to several national, commercial and educational academies.

Cisco has been present in the Saudi market for over 25 years.

“Cisco has been investing in the Saudi youth for quite some time. We are very proud of the great examples that led Cisco in the past. Today they are taking leading positions, whether in the public or the private sector,” Faqeeh said.

Efforts are underway to join the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority Academy itself, Faqeeh said.

“We are very proud of our engagements with SDAIA, whether at a global or national level,” he said.

As digital transformation is advancing worldwide, Diedrich said Cisco aims to connect 1 billion people digitally by 2025. They have currently connected 700 million people, he said. Faqeeh said that Cisco is currently working with the government authorities to establish a local cloud node in Saudi Arabia.

He said the Kingdom is recognized as one of the best working environments for the youth. Cisco ranked first as the best workplace in Saudi Arabia in Great Place to Work Middle East’s 2021 rankings.

“We do focus on our working culture, developing our talent and making sure that they would be ready to lead our business as well as leading within our industry over the years,” Faqeeh said.

On Saudization, Faqeeh said that the company is in the green zone. “The level of Saudization is well represented in literally every part of the organization,” he said.

He added that Saudis work in Cisco’s engineering group, presales, post-sales, business, leadership and support functions.

Diedrich said that the company’s Country Digital Acceleration program matches pace with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Globally, the CDA operates in 44 countries and supports national priorities, including energy, health care, education, smart cities and sustainable cities through an ecosystem of partners.

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