Uber app gets lighter for UAE and Saudi riders

Uber Lite has many of its existing features like the ability to share your trip with friends and family and driver and vehicle details.
Updated 18 March 2019

Uber app gets lighter for UAE and Saudi riders

Uber, the global smartphone app that connects riders with partner drivers, has launched Uber Lite, a redesigned, simplified version of the Uber app in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Uber Lite is being launched across the region to give consumers the opportunity to book a ride irrespective of the quality of their network connection.

Tino Abdellatif Waked, general manager, Middle East and North Africa for Uber, said: “Uber is all about providing reliable transport solutions to our riders, and it stands to reason that the quality of the network connection should not pose a hurdle to achieving that goal. With Uber Lite it’s possible to book a ride even in low connectivity areas, and the data usage while doing so is also limited. We have made the app easier and more convenient, but without compromising on any of the Uber’s hallmark features.”

At less than 5MB download size and available in both English and Arabic, Uber Lite enables those with basic smartphones operating in spotty network conditions to book a ride and start their journey. The lighter version of the app reduces data consumption without sacrificing on any of its main functionalities. In fact, some of its features work even when the app is not connected to the internet.

“Uber Lite makes picking your destination as easy as a tap of a button. Instead of typing where you are, you can choose a nearby point of interest. Additionally, the app stores the city’s top places so that even when you are offline, no network is needed for them to appear. And with a 300-millisecond response time (literally the blink of the eye), the booking process is fast even in low connectivity,” the company said in a statement.

Uber Lite was specifically developed to cut down on mobile data consumption, as well as work in areas with limited network connectivity.

It has many of its existing features like the ability to share your trip with friends and family and driver and vehicle details. The app went live in the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Monday, before which it had already been launched in Pakistan, Qatar, Lebanon, Bahrain and Tanzania.


KAUST research to boost global date fruit production

Updated 16 October 2019

KAUST research to boost global date fruit production

Today on World Food Day, a team of plant scientists from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) has begun a major project to improve global date palm production and protection.

This project is the first time that the date palm genome has been studied so comprehensively. Dr. Ikram Blilou, professor of plant science at KAUST, and her research team in Saudi Arabia have collected samples from ancient date palms in the historical farm of Al-Dabeta, by the Quba Mosque in Madinah. 

“Our main goal is to improve date palm fruit production and quality in the Kingdom. With more than 2,000 existing varieties globally from which 400 grow in Saudi Arabia, we are concentrating on the ‘Ajwa’ date variety, because of its important societal and religious value for Saudi Arabia in particular,” said Dr. Blilou. 

Earlier this year, Dr. Blilou published in the scientific journal Plant Cell, findings that provide an insight into how desert plants are able to thrive in hostile habitats. The research teams within KAUST’s Center for Desert Agriculture are creating molecular and biotechnological tools to improve date palm agriculture by sequencing the genome of the Ajwa date palm.

“The date palm is one of the few fruit trees that, remarkably, can grow in the desert, a habitat with an arid climate where extreme temperature changes and drought conditions limit plant growth,” said Dr. Blilou. 

“Within KAUST’s Center for Desert Agriculture Research we are studying date palms using advanced genome sequencing techniques and have begun to develop new breeding strategies to help palms grow faster and healthier as well as making them more resistant to pathogens and pests like the red palm weevil.” 

According to the National Palms and Dates Center (NCPD), Saudi Arabia produces an estimated 1.1 million tons of dates per year, 15 percent of the world’s date production. In addition, export of dates from Saudi Arabia grew by 11.7 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.

“Despite this economic importance, basic research into the date palm, including understanding mechanisms of growth and adaptation to the desert environment, is still in its early stages mainly because of the lack of molecular tools and the challenging nature of the plant. It requires a long generation time for flowering which can be four to five years and setting fruits that take 10 to 15 years,” said Dr. Rod Wing, professor of plant science and director of the KAUST Center for Desert Agriculture.

The next step for researchers at this center is to work on generating high-quality genomes for a large number of other varieties of date palms, bringing further potential benefits for date palm agriculture around the world.