This article is available also in spanish here

Madinah, where technology meets tranquility

My list

Author | María José Martínez Vial, journalist

Some 350,000 people meet every day in the inspiring Mosque of the Prophet, in the Saudi city of Madinah, the place from which Muhammad established the Muslim community after his flight from Mecca (622ce), and where his body is entombed under a beautiful emerald green dome.

It's Ramandan season. Pilgrims arrive almost at the same time to attend the prayer. They also leave the place within a few minutes of each other. It all depends on the flow at which the impressive sacred enclosure is emptied. Managing the huge tide of pilgrims leaving the Mosque and the inevitable traffic jam that follows immediately, is one of the biggest challenges for the Madinah Region Development Authority (MRDA), the government institution responsible for much of the management of the municipality. And one of the arguments he makes, rightly so, when he explains how technology, put at the service of the people, can increase security, reduce chaos and, therefore, improve the lives of the inhabitants of the city, and of its visitors: 7 million a year, according to pre-pandemic data.

Madinah - 04

I have traveled from Geneva to Madinah to learn about the Madinah Smart City Program (MSCP). I am so excited! I had never been to Saudi Arabia before, but Madinah was already part of my imagination, like that of so many people, long before I got on the plane: I am impatient to get to know the second holy city of Islam.

During the flight I try to imagine the obstacles that the authorities face to transform the Holy City into a Smart City. Is it possible to be both sacred and technologically advanced?

As if he had prepared it, Abdulrahman Ibrahim, Chief Data Analytics and Innovation Officer at MRDA, breaks down the first of my… prejudices? : “I would prefer not to use the word ‘transformation’. The city of Madinah does not need to be transformed. And our goal is not to transform it, but to improve the lives of its citizens thanks to technology, and to enhance its identity” he said. “We are here in a very special place whose inhabitants and visitors have a special sensitivity and spirituality. Now, does the city's holy character prevent it from benefiting from technological progress? Of course not!”, Ibrahim concludes.

Madinah - 03

Madinah Smart City Program (MSCP) is an ambitious project, for whose priority sectors –__ health and wellness, tourism, environment and agriculture, transport and mobility, businesses and old neighborhoods__ – there is defined a very specific sector vision statement. Far from a technology-based approach (IT driven), MSCP is managed with a mindset focused on innovation and the needs of the city (demand driven).

Madinah smart city’s North Start vision states, “We will create the most tranquil, generous, and dynamic smart city in the world, delivering enriched experiences to its residents and visitors, by putting technology, innovation, and collaboration at the heart of Madinah City”.

Madinah - 02

The first track of the program is the smart city framework, a deep study on the context of the smart city, its challenges, its priority sectors and the strategy. The second one is the center of excellence approach to operating city innovation labs, with the objective of ideating, developing and scaling up use cases to address the city’s challenges. The third track is the city platform, connecting existing and new vertical solutions and applications from various government and private sector entities in an integrative way instead of the existing silo-based business model. Different city services will be connected via a single platform to utilize big data and Internet of Things (IoT) feeds.

The mix of past and future impresses me throughout my stay in the city. With its 1.39 million inhabitants, its hospitality and its openness, the streets of Madinah invite the visitor to recollection and reflection. And at the same time, the team responsible for MDA and MSCP is modern, dynamic, creative and very informed of the different technological advances available on the market that will allow them to achieve their goal: while spending time with them you are continuously challenged. As I walk around, I wonder if the combination of reflection and technology is what results in a project as focused on the citizen as the one I am discovering over the days. And it makes me want to say that I wish that it will be a successful project. I haven't left yet and I already want to go back to check it out. The end. And the beginning.

Related content

Recommended profiles for you

Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
SR
Sobandi Ramalis
Pilar Tunas Nusa Lestari foundation
Founder of the institution and senior researcher /facilitator on urban development
HK
Hugo Kerschot
IS-practice
Director
JD
Jorge Alberto Diaz
Consorcio de la Zona Franca de Barcelona
International Project Manager
NB
Nabil Baladi
Canal cartagena tv
Director of news
MT
Marcos Theofilo Silvério da Silva
See
Coach
Barbara  Pons-Giner
Barbara Pons-Giner
Ajuntament de Barcelona
Liubava Taneeva
Liubava Taneeva
LANIT
Business Development Director
TJ
Tomasz Janos
Wroclaw Academic Hub, City of Wroclaw
Managing Director of Wroclaw Academic Hub
Karlos Zuñiga
Karlos Zuñiga
Skootik
Director of Business Development
Pilar Ballén
Pilar Ballén
Infracontrol
Project Manager
CARLOS FRANCISCO  DEHESA
CARLOS FRANCISCO DEHESA
ÁLGIDO
CEO & FOUNDER
NC
Nuria Conforto
desideDatum
Data Consultant
MC
Maitre Christian
Orange
JB
Jieun Baek
Student
student
PK
Paulo Cezar Kohlrausch
Município de Santa Clara do Sul
Prefeito Municipal
IK
Ivan Kusseneers
Citymesh
Market Manager Government and Smart City
JOSEFINA LÓPEZ GALDEANO
JOSEFINA LÓPEZ GALDEANO
OFICINA TÉCNICA DE LA RECI (U-SPACE)
Director
MR
MARIANA ROLDAN
Universidad Ramon Llull
PHD STUDENT
VH
Vanesa Hernandez Perez
Generalitat de Catalunya
DirCom
WB
William Boyd
Argentina
Advisor

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$