Saudi food authority uses artificial intelligence to facilitate medical attention

Tameni is a mobile application and apps are popular among the youth. (SPA)
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Updated 06 April 2020

Saudi food authority uses artificial intelligence to facilitate medical attention

  • The mobile app Tameni aims to provide accurate and easy information about all the products supervised by the authority

JEDDAH: The ideal way to receive medical advice during the current health crisis is through digital means, a recommendation emphasized by Saudi authorities while a nationwide lockdown is in force due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has launched electronic services that contribute to promoting health awareness and interactive communication, while also tightening control and facilitating the performance of businesses.
The services include a WhatsApp chatbot called Sarah and an app called Tameni, in cooperation with the National Digital Transformation Unit, which use AI, business intelligence, and an electronic inspection system.
Sarah works around the clock and communicates directly with users through WhatsApp and Telegram. It allows users to inquire about drugs, send a complaint, and contributes to increasing health awareness as well.

We want to reassure people about our food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices.

Abdullah Al-Dokhail, SFDA’s director of systems development

The mobile app Tameni aims to provide accurate and easy information about all the products supervised by the authority. It allows users to search for drugs, their prices, and their alternatives, through the name of the product or the barcode.
Last November, the SFDA’s director of systems development, Abdullah Al-Dokhail, said the authority chose the name Sarah because it was the most common female name in the Kingdom. It is also his mother’s name.
“I don’t think there is a household in the Kingdom without the name Sarah,” he said. “It is definitely someone’s daughter, mother or sister. It is a very common name, it is present in every region in the Kingdom, it is even popular globally. The name Sarah is derived from the Arabic word suroor, which means joy and that is what we want to bring to everyone.”
He explained that the same idea lay behind tammni, which means reassure me.

FASTFACT

• The services include a WhatsApp chatbot called Sarah and an app called Tameni. Sarah works around the clock and communicates directly with users through WhatsApp and Telegram.

• The mobile app Tameni aims to provide accurate and easy information about all the products supervised by the SFDA.

“We want to reassure people about our food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices,” he added. A common question the authority received was why the two services were not rolled into one app. Al-Dokhail said the SFDA wanted the services to reach everyone inside the Kingdom and outside.
“That is why we diversified the platforms. We chose WhatsApp because there is a statistic that said 25 million people in the Kingdom use WhatsApp. Tameni is a mobile application and apps are popular among the youth.”
The electronic inspection system contributes to reducing violations and maintaining the safety of citizens and residents in the Kingdom through direct follow-ups from the inspection operations room, updating facilities’ data, archiving their files directly, and electronic scheduling of periodic inspections.
As of Sunday Saudi Arabia had confirmed 206 new coronavirus cases and five deaths, bringing the totals to 2,385 infections, 34 deaths and 488 recoveries.


Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

Updated 37 min 11 sec ago

Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

  • People celebrating Eid alone or abroad find ways to stay positive

JEDDAH: For different reasons many people living in the Kingdom have found themselves alone for the holidays due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, their spirits dampened as they are forced to stay home alone, away from loved ones.

As the pandemic enters its third month in Saudi Arabia, flights have not yet resumed, strict social distancing and safety measures are still in place and curfews have been reimposed to curb the spread of the virus during the Eid holidays.

Many families are stranded in cities across the Kingdom, while Saudis studying and working abroad are either stuck or have chosen to spend summer where they are out of fear they will not be able to return and start their new semesters.

Some people were able to move in with their families and quarantine together, while others were deprived of that chance.

A number of Saudi nationals, including students, have been repatriated in the past couple of weeks while others are still waiting for their turn.

Yousef Al-Ayesh, a 21-year-old senior student at Arizona State University, has been at home since late March as a precautionary measure.

He said that Eid with his family in Jeddah was one event that everyone looked forward to all year long. Under normal circumstances the first three days of Eid would be filled with events — family dinners at night and beach excursions during the day. Although he would be sleep-deprived, he would still make the most of the little time he spent with his family due to his studies.

“With all that’s going on, it doesn’t even feel like it’s Eid,” he told Arab News. 

“It most probably would have been different if I was back in Saudi Arabia but I still wouldn’t have been able to celebrate it the same way. It’s not that bad here (in the US) now since restaurants have reopened and my friends and I have the outdoors to enjoy, have a barbecue, or just hang out. I would have felt worse if I was alone. Ramadan was already odd enough, I don’t think I would have been OK if it were the case without them.”

Although his family lives 8,000 miles away he did not feel alone as his group of friends decided to celebrate together, even without the perks of new clothes and eidiyas from aunts and uncles.

It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed

Al-Ayesh hoped to be repatriated to the Kingdom soon and spend some time with his family after his mandatory quarantine.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed, a 29-year-old expat working and living in Riyadh, said this year’s Eid was tough without his family.

Although he is used to living alone because of his job, Eid was the one occasion he looked forward to the most every year because he got to travel to Cairo and be with his family.

“My family moved from Jeddah to Cairo about four or five years ago and Eid is a significant occasion in the family, Eid Al-Fitr is significantly more special than Eid Al-Adha even,” he told Arab News. “I look forward to traveling to see them every year since moving to Riyadh but wasn’t able to with the lockdown, so we all got together on FaceTime video call and spent the whole day speaking to family members.”

Like many expats, Fareed has spent the past months at home and said it was hard for him and his family but that communication had made the ordeal slightly easier.

“It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way,” he added.