Saudi Araba’s wake-up call on digital health

The program aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits. (Photos/Supplied)
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The program aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits. (Photos/Supplied)
Saudi Araba’s wake-up call on digital health
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The program aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits. (Photos/Supplied)
Saudi Araba’s wake-up call on digital health
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The program aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits. (Photos/Supplied)
Saudi Araba’s wake-up call on digital health
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The program aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits. (Photos/Supplied)
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Updated 08 September 2021

Saudi Araba’s wake-up call on digital health

The program aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits. (Photos/Supplied)
  • Ithra program sounds alarm on sleep loss amid warnings of tech overuse

DHAHRAN: Three out of four people in Saudi Arabia say they lose sleep because of their phones, a major initiative on digital health has been told.

The Sync program staged by King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Tuesday highlighted the growing issue of digital overuse in an increasingly digitized world.

The initiative comes as digital overuse and screen addiction are blamed for problems ranging from behavioral disorders in children to insomnia in adults — issues that appear to be growing as technology spreads into all areas of our lives.

Among the well-being program’s aims is to “draw a line between the digital world and the real one.”

The wide-ranging program featured multiple workstreams and seminars on technology overuse, with perspectives from a range of disciplines including, sociology, psychology, science and neurology.

A discussion panel was moderated by cultural adviser Tariq Khawaji, and featured Mohammed Al-Hajji, director of the Behavioral Insights Unit at the Saudi Ministry of Health, and Heyla Al-Selim, professor of social psychology at King Saud University.

The panel saw a debate between Al-Hajji and Al-Selim take place, with the former shedding light on the risks caused by technology from a medical and neurological point of view, while Al-Selim drew attention to the positive and effective side of technology.

Al-Selim told Arab News that social media has helped reveal the true identity of the Saudi community by breaking down the walls of private life.

“We don’t have to only see the dark side of the issue, and we can’t deny that (social media) has helped the Saudi community share and communicate more, especially the youth and those eager to express themselves,” she said. “This explains how it helps in cultural exchange, such as Saudi people being fond of Japanese culture.”

Al-Hajji discussed how daily habits resulting from phone addiction affect the neuroplasticity of the brain, saying: “I think the average time of daily phone use varies from six to seven hours for each one of us for 365 days. It can actually change the anatomical structure of the human brain in the long run, and that rings the danger bill.”

Sync’s program director, Abdullah Al-Rashid, said that research for the program began almost a year ago, with 75 experts from nine countries, including the US, UK, France, Belgium, South Korea, Japan and China, collaborating in order to understand the latest thinking on the topic.

“We carried out landscape mapping of all the available research on the subject and then launched one of the largest global studies in 30 countries. We were able to study 15,000 people, and that formed the basis of this program,” he said.

Al-Rashid said that research showed that the vast majority of people are a lot more connected to their phones today than they were two years ago.

“Half the global population, one in two people in the world, say they lose sleep because of their phones,” he said.

In Saudi Arabia, the figure is even higher. “Almost three out of every four people in Saudi say that they have lost sleep because of their phones, and that is only one data point — there is a wealth of data yet to be revealed.”

The program also aims to raise awareness of the problem, encourage people to practice good digital habits, and provide international leadership for a post-pandemic digital world.

“This project has come out of something we are all aware of — technology is permeating our lives. We see it in our daily habits, in the behavior of our loved ones and in society,” Al-Rashid said. “But it also has brought us a lot of benefits, especially during the pandemic.”

The program combines research and good practice to help people use digital technology without allowing it to control their lives or cause damage that can lead to physical and mental issues.

“This extremely fast acceleration and adaptation has affected our identity, culture and language, even the words that we use,” Al-Rashid said.

“As a cultural nonprofit center, our aim is to study this phenomenon, and the implications of technology’s rise not only for our inner personal well-being but also for society at large.”

During the launch, Ithra viewed a video that showed children’s responses when asked about the amount of time they spend on tablets and phones, and about the behavior of their parents regarding phone overuse.

Dr. Hanan Al-Shaikh, a pediatric consultant, said that digital balance is “extremely important,” and that children should be included in the conversation, too. “One of the rights of children is to use technology; it is a worldwide need. However, it is really crucial to be aware that many kids are being harassed and bullied online. Thus, we as parents should teach kids about digital citizenship that protects their privacy from being digitally exploited.”

Research carried out for Ithra by ASDA’A warns that the overuse of technology has become a concern both at the regional and international levels.

Highlights:

• Studies show that 41 percent of technology users find it difficult to focus on everyday tasks.

• More than 3 million people use meditating apps to overcome insomnia, research shows.

• Almost 50 percent of technology users experience sleeping disorders.

And according to ASDA’A research:

• 40 percent of Gen Z respondents — people born between 1995 and 2012 — have misled their friends and family about their internet usage.

• The public in South Asia and the Middle East, and people within Gen Z, are the most likely to spend more time online than they actually want to.

• Online harassment and bullying affects about 34 percent of the public in the Middle East and North Africa.

• Some people use social media in an individual way, by exploring publications without interacting or commenting, which can lead to feelings of loneliness.

• Receiving a social media notification on our phone can lead to “reward anticipation” and a dopamine hit. Another hit is activated if the message is pleasant (eventually, the anticipation of a reward is enough).


Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit

Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit
Updated 17 sec ago

Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit

Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit
  • The inaugural summit will see world leaders and representatives gather on Monday

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his accompanying delegation arrived in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sunday, to participate in the Middle East Green Initiative Summit.
Khan was received at King Khalid International Airport by Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, acting governor of Riyadh, and other Saudi officials.
The inaugural summit will see world leaders and representatives gather on Monday to examine green policy solutions to climate challenges, as part of a regional initiative launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year.
The Middle East Green Initiative aims to apply a number of ambitious programs that will reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent in the region and plant 50 billion trees in the world’s biggest afforestation project.

 


Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections

Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections
Updated 27 min 58 sec ago

Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections

Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections
  • Ministry of Interior records 824 violations against precautionary measures in the past week
  • Municipalities close three businesses and issue fines to 500 others for violating precautionary measures

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed two new COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,778.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 47 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,252 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 79 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 13, followed by Jeddah with nine, Makkah with four, and Madinah recorded three cases.
The health ministry also announced that 36 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,282.
Over 45.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 21.1 million people have been fully vaccinated.


Saudi authorities continued their monitoring campaigns to ensure compliance with the precautionary measures imposed to stem the spread of the disease.
The Ministry of Interior reported 824 violations in the past week, compared to 22,746 the previous week. The highest number of breaches was recorded in Riyadh with 344, followed by Makkah with 298, Madinah with 59, and the Eastern Province with 56. Al-Jawf recorded the lowest number of violations with three.
The ministry called on citizens and residents to abide by the preventive protocols and the instructions issued by authorities in this regard.
Saudi municipalities have also ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures.
The municipality of the Eastern Province carried out 8,872 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the past week. Authorities found 475 violations and closed three businesses for not adhering to the precautionary measures.
Rafha Municipality in the Northern Borders Province also carried out 280 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the last week and authorities issued fines to 25 commercial outlets for breaching protocols.
Officials have also called on the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or contacting authorities through the Balady app.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 244 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.96 million.


Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas

Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas
Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas

Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas
  • The foreign ministry said visas would be automatically extended until Nov. 30 without any charge

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it will extend residency and visitor visas for people still unable to reach the Kingdom due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The foreign ministry said visas would be automatically extended until Nov. 30 without any charge.
The ministry said the move, which was done in cooperation with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (National Information Center), the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Interior, comes as part of the Saudi government’s efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
The ministry added that the beneficiaries have been notified of the extension via email, which includes an attached e-visa form.


King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy

King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy
Updated 24 October 2021

King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy

King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy
  • The decision comes in response to an invitation from Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is set to head the Kingdom’s delegation at the annual G20 summit in the Italian capital, Rome, next week, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.
The king’s decision to head the delegation virtually comes “in response to the kind invitation received by King Salman from Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit to be held on Oct. 30-31,” the statement said.
“The Kingdom expresses its appreciation for the efforts made by Italy to ensure the work of the G20 presidency succeeds this year through joint collective action,” it added.
As a member of the group’s Troika, Saudi Arabia also reaffirmed its keenness to continue efforts to make the summit a success.
The current members of the Troika include Saudi Arabia, former president of the G20, Italy, the current president and Indonesia, next year’s president.


Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives

Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives
Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives

Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir on Sunday met with the US envoy for climate, John Kerry, on the sidelines of the Saudi Green Initiative forum, which is being held in the capital, Riyadh.
During the meeting, they discussed the Kingdom’s efforts to confront climate change and the qualitative initiatives it has launched to protect the planet and nature. 
The two sides also discussed regional and international developments of common interest. the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.