Latest farming technologies focus of Riyadh event

in Riyadh on Monday. (AN photo by Ahmed Fathi)
Updated 09 October 2018
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Latest farming technologies focus of Riyadh event

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli officially inaugurated Saudi Agriculture 2018 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center on Monday.

The exhibition, organized by the Riyadh Exhibitions Co. (REC), was, however, open for exhibitors and visitors on Sunday.

The exhibition provides local and international companies with an opportunity to showcase the latest agricultural technologies and services specifically focusing on animal and aquatic plantations, crop farms, organic agriculture and fish farming.

As Vision 2030 aims to diversify the economy by developing the economic sector to achieve sustainable development, it further emphasizes reserving natural resources including the rationalization of water consumption in agriculture and achieving food security to increase the share of the agriculture sector in the gross domestic product (GDP). 

Mohammad Al-Asheikh, head of marketing at the REC, said the exhibition had drawn a large number of regional and international participants, which reflects their growing confidence in the Saudi market as the Kingdom offers promising growth opportunities in animal and organic agriculture as well as in aquaculture.

He said the focus on aquaculture is aligned with the initiatives to meet the local demand for marine products by 2030, enhancing its competitiveness in providing a safe and reliable supply of these resources.

Concluding on Oct. 10, the mega event is being held concurrently with the Saudi Agro-Food expo, dedicated to the food processing and packaging industry, which showcases a vast array of equipment and solutions from manufacturers and distributors of tools, machinery and services that are essential for food production and packing.

Saudi Agriculture 2018 is aimed at exploring investment opportunities in the local aquaculture sector to ensure food security in the Kingdom and increase its food production capacity to 1 million tons by 2029.

A number of workshops were also held to highlight the role of organic agriculture in providing safe and environment-friendly organic and animal food products in the local market.

Participants at the workshops discussed investment opportunities in the local sector, updating the international community about aquaculture developments in line with the government’s policy of making the Kingdom a top global producer of safe and high-quality food harvested in sustainable ways.

The annual exhibition brings together some of the largest companies every year as it has become a major platform to review the latest agricultural products and technologies.

The event also covers the latest innovations in animal health, beekeeping and honey production, agricultural funding products and services, animal breeding, chemicals and fertilizers, cold storage and crop production, dairy products and equipment, feed and additives, and packaging systems.


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.”