5,000 attend 4th edition of ‘Shoof’ forum for digital visual media

On stage during the 4th edition of the “Shoof” forum are (left to right): young businesswoman Adwa Al-Dakheel, Saudi aerospace engineer Mashaal Al-Shmimri, Kuwaiti activist Dana Mado, and Emirati media figure Diala Ali. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
Updated 23 October 2016
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5,000 attend 4th edition of ‘Shoof’ forum for digital visual media

RIYADH: The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (MiSK) kicked off its fourth edition of the Digital Visual Media Forum, “Shoof 4,” on Saturday in Riyadh.
Durrat Arriyadh, where the forum was held, received 5,000 visitors coming from across the Kingdom’s regions to witness the announced seven initiatives.
According to Yousef Hammadi, head of the media committee of the Shoof Forum in its 4th edition, the first initiative provides for “the establishment of an educational platform for educational and creative content creators on YouTube and Snapchat from the public education and higher education students,” while the second initiative focused on “launching the Shoof contest initiative for film production that enhances the sense of national affiliation or belonging to one’s homeland, society and culture.”
The third initiative sheds light on MiSK Foundation’s support in the production of “five cultural films specialized in identifying historical milestones in Saudi Arabia,” while the fourth aims at “developing the skills of 20 young men and women in the field of photography and video production through Shoof’s advanced program for film direction program in partnership with the New York Film Academy.”
The fifth initiative focuses on “supporting the production of 30 videos for 30 charities from across Saudi Arabia’s regions.”
The sixth initiative highlights the “training of 500 young people in the areas associated with the digital visual media,” and the seventh initiatives seeks to “establish a Shoof community for visual production that brings together young professionals in this field and provides them with business professional opportunities.”
Shoof Forum’s main objective is positively directing digital and visual media and utilize to benefit the interests of our country’s youth through the means of social media, such as Snapchat that gains around 6 billion views around the world per day.
The forum included several workshops held by prominent content creators in the MENA region, where Ayman Jamal, director and producer of “Bilal” and the founder of Barajoun Entertainment Animation Company, led the workshops and shed light on his experience, its objectives and challenges.
“Bilal came to light with the help of 327 workers in three years,” said Jamal.
According to the director of Jamal, 94 percent of people have ideas, only 27 percent of them take the first step in a feasibility study of their projects, 18 percent of them actually start their proposed project, and only 23 percent continue and overcome the first three years of challenges, which means only 1 percent of everyone who has an idea executes it.
Jamal was provoked by the Superman costume his son was wearing and wanted to provide an Islamic alternative for him in the absence of such heroes in animation movies. “I wanted to market our heroes in Islam, to the world that marketed their heroes in our countries, and this is how the idea of Bilal, the first Saudi, Arabic and Islamic film, came about.”
The second workshop was held by the youngest mathematics teacher on Snapchat, 12-year-old Mona Al-Mawwash, who utilized social media to give math lessons for students who face difficulties in their studies.
The middle school student was honored by the minister of education on her efforts.
Sam Blatteis, YouTube representative, was also one of the speakers who took part in the workshops. “We actually have paid about SR7.5 billion in the last several years to our local partners.”
“We have seen a skyrocketing of urban content uploaded on YouTube from the MENA region, north of 40 percent in the last year,” he added.
Blatteis mentioned the YouTube Batala Hub that was launched last week in Riyadh. “It is much more than just make-up and fashion; it is a universe of potential categories out there, and we want to shed light on Arab women in the country.”
He concluded his session saying this is the beginning, and quoting the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, “we are still scratching the surface of what is possible.”
Later on, Dr. Barakat Al-Waqyan, Kuwaiti media figure, hosted four influential public figures in the field of digital visual media: Sultan Al-Mousa, Abdullah Al-Hussein, Mansour Al-Rugaibah, and Abdullah Al-Saba, where Al-Waqyan managed to dive into the hidden details of these public figures.
At the end of the panel discussion, an initiative was launched by Dr. Al-Waqyan to unfollow all those who misuse social media to offend religion, morals, homeland or society, with an emphasis on the importance of renewing ideas and content development.
Shoof Forum’s stage also hosted YouTube content creator Thunayyan Khalid who shared positive vibes with the audience amid applause and camera flashes to capture the 15 minutes of his journey and challenges he faced in content creation.
“Continuation comes first, then thinking. We must take advantage of every negative feedback/comment, as they help us improve and provide better content in the future,” Khalid said.
He concluded his session by encouraging and motivating young content creators, “don’t say impossible; erase this word from your dictionary and believe in your capabilities to reach the highest levels.”
The forum also witnessed the exclusive presentation of the first episode of the show Yeshbahak (it resembles you), which highlights the sacrifices of the brave soldiers in southern border who were injured.
The episode presented the heroes’ stories in tackling and protecting the homeland and its people in the fields of honor, and their desire to return to their positions despite the injuries.
The forum didn’t overlook women’s part in digital visual media, where it hosted four prominent female figures in our region, including Mashaal Al-Shmimri, Saudi aerospace engineer; Dana Mado, Kuwaiti activist and founder of Twentytwo11, a PR and branding company; Adwa Al-Dakheel, a young businesswoman; and the panel was moderated by Emirati media figure Diala Ali.
When asked about projects on social media, Mado said, “the majority of people used to avoid engaging in social media projects as it is a virtual world and cannot be trusted in business, however, times have changed and those media outlets were proven to be efficient and drew a tremendous turnout and helped transition process of those projects from the virtual world into reality.”
The Saudi aerospace engineer pointed out that her way of creating useful content is through simplifying the information provided in order to meet the viewer’s demand.
Mashaal Al-Shmimri stressed that there is no such a thing as true or false, as it all depends on the individual’s objectives.
Adwa Al-Dakheel, whose huge fan base attended the forum solely to see her and take numerous selfies with her, said that her dream and goal is to be among the richest people in the world.
The young businesswoman found herself in several areas, including business, music, poetry, singing and driving an airplane. “In our current generation, we don’t see people with multiple talents, and this is a reason for a person to excel in an area where he/she finds themselves.” Al-Dakheel added that the means of social media tremendously helped to reach the places she is in as a businesswoman. “I grew up in front of the audience. I was a scholarship student in the US who survived on $5 per day and now, I am prominent businesswoman in Riyadh.” Addressing the fake accounts and their negative impact on people, Mado expressed her fear of those “masked accounts,” for their huge influence on the public using humor as a method to gain an access to the masses.
Regarding the content shared on social media, Al-Dakheel stressed the need to keep an eye on the content viewed by children, “yes for freedom, but with censorship!“ Emirati host Dalia Ali asked Mado about the responsibility of women in social media and whether they have to be more careful in their content. “I believe in gender equality even in social media. The social taboos are the same for both genders, and everyone must take the same precautions regarding their content. No for double standards! We must increase the sense of responsibility in our men and women alike,” answered Mado, who concluded with, “be an idea, not a commodity.”
Shoof Forum concluded its fourth edition with the Emirati minister of youth, the youngest minister in the world, Shamma Al-Mazrui, who was appointed to hold this post by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the prime minister and vice president of UAE “Digital visual media had a great role in changing my life. Right after the prime minister’s tweet asking universities to nominate three candidates for the ministry of youth, all Emirati youths were keen to give their best to serve their country.”
“I want to thank the MiSK Foundation for adopting media circles for the Kingdom’s youth to hold dialogues with them and launch inspiring initiatives. We learn from you. Thank you for teaching the world how to invest in their youth. The Saudi youth is the outcome of wise leadership that makes hope, not only restore it,” Al-Mazrui added.
She stressed her message about making hope for a better future, “losing hope is the beginning of unemployment. Losing hope puts limits on our ambitions. Losing hope blocks the vision from a bright future we are able to make with our own hands.”


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”