The apps that helped keep Saudis safe from COVID-19

Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) has launched three new apps. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2020

The apps that helped keep Saudis safe from COVID-19

  • The Kingdom launched new apps and improved existing ones to help tackle the pandemic

JEDDAH: As part of its efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Saudi Arabia has launched a set of different applications and improved some existing ones to provide various health care services to its residents.

During the Riyadh Global Digital Health Summit that took place earlier in August, Saudi Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said that pandemic preparedness and digital health have been key priorities for the Kingdom and that technology has been the primary weapon in the battle against COVID-19. He said that Saudi Arabia had “capitalized on many of [its] existing digital applications that offer artificial intelligence components in tackling this pandemic,” playing a fundamental role in supporting health emergency management by strengthening existing response mechanisms.

Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) has launched three new apps: Tetamman (Rest Assured), Tabaud (Social Distancing), and Tawakkalna, in addition to a new version of the Sehhaty app.

WHAT THE APPS DO:

Tetamman: Allows users to book appointments for COVID-19 tests and enables continuous communication and follow-up on their cases by checking in every day to report their symptoms.

Tawakkalna: Shows users’ health status, allows them to obtain movement permissions during curfew and report suspected cases or any gatherings that may violate precautionary measures.

Tabaud: Tracks the spread of COVID-19 infections, allowing users to know if they have been in contact with people who have tested positive within the past 14 days while maintaining the confidentiality of the data.

Sehhaty: Provides access to health information and medical e-services offered by different health organizations in the Kingdom.

These apps were launched through the combined efforts of a number of relevant government agencies: the MOH, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Communications, the National Information Center and other related bodies.

Tetamman was launched in April and developed in the early days of the pandemic to “reinforce the commitment of all persons directed to isolation and follow up on their cases.” The app allows users to book an appointment for a COVID-19 test, follow up on the results, conduct a self-assessment of their health status, manage their isolation period, access accurate educational material and more. It has helped to facilitate mass testing plans, including drive-through testing stations in 17 cities across the Kingdom, receiving over 2.7 million beneficiaries to date.

Tawakkalna, an app developed by the National Information Center and launched in April, provided a number of important services during the imposed lockdown in the Kingdom that was lifted on May 30, including a jogging permit, exit permits for emergency health conditions and temporary driving passes.

Users of the app have surpassed 7 million in the past four months, with three new services added to the app this month that included an alert status, safe gathering management and dependent care. This last feature enables parents to follow up on their children, aged 15 or under, checking on them and the areas they visit.

Moreover, users can also report COVID-19 suspected cases to help individuals receive the health care they, or others, need. The app is available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Filipino, Hindi, Indonesian and Urdu.

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With the ease of curfew restrictions, the MOH launched the Tabaud app in June to help people in Saudi Arabia identify cases in proximity to them, in order to protect themselves and help curb the spread of the virus.

The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, in cooperation with the MOH, launched Tabaud to notify people in crowded areas of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 within the last 14 days. It notifies users of infected individuals by sending encrypted data to smartphones running the app, using Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones that also operate the app, determine the distance and notify users to take precautionary steps.

Sehhaty, another app with integrated services that was developed by a private company in cooperation with the MOH, enables users to access health information and medical e-services provided by different health organizations in the Kingdom. These include COVID-19 test appointment booking, the self-assessment test, vital signs updates, tracking prescribed medicine, and retrieving and sharing sick leaves.

It also promotes a healthy lifestyle through various features, including an integrated steps tracker with Apple HealthKit. Other systems were also activated, including the 937 health care number and the Seha and Mawid apps, which were launched in 2017, to allow users to receive medical consultation from accredited specialists and book appointments at public health centers. By September, the number of 937 calls grew to 17.73 million, while Seha app downloads exceeded 1.5 million.


Global Amazon marketing agency launches in Middle East to help regional brands

Updated 19 October 2020

Global Amazon marketing agency launches in Middle East to help regional brands

  • Podean CEO Mark Power: ‘You can’t just look at Amazon as a pure sales channel, it is much more than that; it’s a vast array of properties, experiences, and content’
  • Mark Power: ‘The Middle East is a huge market of 230 million people so Amazon’s taking this very seriously because it’s a very strategic market with real volume and real growth’

RIYADH: Global Amazon agency and marketplace consultancy Podean has been officially launched in the Middle East, with a regional headquarters in Dubai.

In 2017, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) e-commerce market reached $8.3 billion with an average annual growth rate of 25 percent. In 2020, e-commerce expenditure exceeded expectations by more than $52 billion since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown began in March – up 77 percent year-on-year. And at the forefront of this surge was Amazon.

In the UAE alone, 46 percent of shoppers use Amazon with Noon being a distant second at 16.9 percent.

Mark Power, founder and CEO of Podean, spoke to Arab News about the Amazon ecosystem and how his agency can help brands succeed on the platform.

Podean launched in New York 9 years ago and has since expanded to the UK, Australia, and the Middle East. Power comes from an agency background having worked at The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG).

“Holding companies (such as IPG) are very sophisticated and they have huge scale and they help brands in a very sophisticated way when it comes to media and creative but they really don’t understand the nitty gritty of the world of e-commerce and retail and they have a lot of trouble working out how to make money from it,” he said.

On the other hand, he added, Amazon-focused agencies were usually started by ex-Amazon employees who have a siloed approach.

“We believe Amazon should be ultimately integrated with everything else you’re doing as a brand. You can’t just look at Amazon as a pure sales channel, it is much more than that; it’s a vast array of properties, experiences, and content,” Power said.

A common challenge is that most brands and businesses think of Amazon as a sales or retail channel simply to place their product on.

“It doesn’t get the love it really needs because Amazon has now given people access to tools to make their products stand out, and if you’re not doing that you can quickly lose out on precious sales and valuable traffic or not convert that traffic because you haven’t invested and you haven’t sort of adjusted to the new the new Amazon reality,” he added.

As of 2018, Facebook and Google commanded around 70 percent of digital advertising dollars while Amazon’s share was roughly 7 percent and it has surely increased – beyond regular forecasts – this year.

Amazon’s consumer growth has been supported by the launch of initiatives and products for businesses such as the Amazon Marketing Cloud and its demand-side platform (DSP), which allows brands to place display and video ads across Amazon’s websites and apps.

This year has also marked a significant milestone for the e-commerce giant with product searches on Amazon surpassing those on Google in the US. All of this means that brands – even those not selling on the platform – can now also use Amazon for upper-funnel marketing activities, such as brand awareness, and not just for performance marketing. They can also access Amazon’s data to pinpoint the consumer journey and better target audiences.

Power pointed out that the agency’s services were not cannibalizing audiences away from a brand’s direct-to-consumer channel, but rather finding these potential consumers who have visited a brand’s direct-to-consumer channel but prefer the Amazon experience and shaping their consumer journey in a way that is favorable to the brand.

While consumers are flocking to Amazon for everything from toilet paper to electronics, sellers and businesses are expressing concerns as evidenced by the antitrust hearing against Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Sellers know that the best place to sell online is Amazon, but it is a tricky situation to be in when Amazon starts selling its own versions of the most popular products.

“It’s hard to make a judgment call. But, at the same time, some of the things that we’ve seen as partners within the Amazon ecosystem doesn’t look good at all,” Power said.

He chalked it down to the silos that exist within Amazon. “Amazon is a siloed business made up of a vast array of different entrepreneurial businesses within different businesses within different businesses and that has caused it to become an incredible success.

“But I think it also can be something where because there are silos and lack of communication, some of those teams go off and do things and they do it fast and so successfully, that it may come at a cost – not just to other teams within Amazon, but also the partners that they’ve built.”

He added that Amazon was now being much more careful as to how it worked with partners, “not just be obsessed with end-consumers which it has been touting for many years.” And this is reflected in the initiatives it has launched to support partners and brands such as its APIs (app programming interfaces) and Brand Registry programs.

Its advertising tools for the Middle East are in the process of being launched starting with the UAE and Saudi Arabia and then Egypt and Turkey, all of which will be served by Podean’s Middle East headquarters in Dubai.

Power said: “It (the Middle East) is a huge market of 230 million people so Amazon’s taking this very seriously because it’s a very strategic market with real volume and real growth.”