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AI to play a part in future of education: minister

Yousef Al-Benyan addressing the Global Cybersecurity Forum. AN.
Yousef Al-Benyan addressing the Global Cybersecurity Forum. AN.
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01 Nov 2023 10:11:47 GMT9
01 Nov 2023 10:11:47 GMT9

Manal Al-Barakati

RIYADH: Cybersecurity conversations in schools need to extend beyond security concerns, the Saudi education minister has insisted.

In what he described as his first appearance in a business setting since being appointed to the role in September 2022, Yousef Al-Benyan addressed the Global Cybersecurity Forum, calling for a new approach within the sector. 

During the discussion, he encouraged a more comprehensive, individualized process focusing on awareness, prevention, and “change management programs,” eliminating the emphasis on fear factors. 

“We need to expand the view on cybersecurity to a different approach. I think if we look at it only from a compliance perspective, or basically a system issue, continuously we will struggle,” Al-Benyan said.

“It’s beyond security. It requires a huge change in management programs. Let’s move away from the terminology ‘security’ or ‘protection.’ I’m not fond of this because you cannot really operate on a fear factor. You need to operate on a more sophisticated transformation awareness protocol … because we need to protect ourselves, our family, our society, and the entire community we operate,” he added.

He further noted that within the Kingdom, organizations such as the National Cybersecurity Authority and the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority are assuming measures to ensure that new power technologies, such as AI, are harnessed to aid rather than harm the educational sector. 

“As of today, we in the ministry formed a team to look at how the school will look like in 2035/2040. I do believe technology and AI is going to play a major role in this. It’s going to be an integral part of our education. Cybersecurity is going to be an integral part of it,” the minister said.

“Any new technology has its own risks. But as of today, I think we have a very strong technology innovation and indications, more or less in a controlled environment. They will be less risk than others. They will allow teachers and also faculty in universities to enhance their skill set, their research using AI, in a more safe way,” he added

In October, the ministry initiated test runs utilizing AI in various schools, as well as developmental programs for teachers that the minister noted are in their “final stages.”

Al-Benyan said the trials showed the Kingdom has “very innovative teachers” who used the technology in their own ways.

“Those (developmental) programs will basically touch every aspect of teachers’ developmental needs, and their digital needs, because teachers have to be digitally equipped in terms of knowledge in order for them to deal with the current and future generations – and cybersecurity is going to be part of it,” he said.

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