How Saudi app designers made blood donation in the Kingdom easier, more organized

Special A Saudi youth flashes the V-sign for victory as he gives blood at a donation center in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
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A Saudi youth flashes the V-sign for victory as he gives blood at a donation center in Jeddah. (AFP)
Special Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
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Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
Special Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
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Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
Special Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.   (AFP file photo)
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Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life. 
Special Ahmed Alhesayani was one of the young Saudi co-founders of Wateen and helped to launch the service in early 2019. (Supplied)
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Ahmed Alhesayani was one of the young Saudi co-founders of Wateen and helped to launch the service in early 2019. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 September 2021

How Saudi app designers made blood donation in the Kingdom easier, more organized

How Saudi app designers made blood donation in the Kingdom easier, more organized
  • Tech entrepreneurs revolutionizing the health sector and inspiring more people to donate blood
  • To date, Wateen has clocked up 520,000 users, 962,000 donations and 440,000 appointments

DUBAI: Blood-donation awareness has been steadily increasing in Saudi Arabia, thanks in part to an innovative smartphone app called Wateen, which tells people about their nearest blood bank, when they are due to give, and how many times they have donated.

Ahmad Alhesayani, one of Wateen’s young Saudi co-founders, helped launch the service in early 2019. Today it is used by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health under Sehhaty, the national platform for blood donation.

“Wateen not only makes donating easier, but also automates more than 150 private and public blood-bank systems in the country, making them more productive, helpful and organized,” Alhesayani told Arab News.

“The service encourages and enables voluntary blood donation in Saudi Arabia. It has a humanitarian approach, and what shapes it is the vision of creating a robust health infrastructure around blood, plasma and platelets donation. The concept is both ambitious and feasible, and at the same time imperative.”




Wateen has become a recruitment tool for the ministry to motivate potential donors

Blood and its components are used by hospitals to treat patients with medical conditions such as anemia, cancer and blood disorders, as well as those having surgery. Nations try to maintain a stockpile of blood so that their health systems can provide lifesaving transfusions during mass-casualty events. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has refocused minds on health-system preparedness.

However, blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life. Red blood cells can be stored for up to 35 days, platelets for up to seven days, and plasma for up to three years.

Blood banks rely on regular voluntary donations. Despite shifting attitudes in the Kingdom toward blood donation and a growing number of donors, including many women, blood banks occasionally run short, especially when it comes to rarer blood types, which can be a matter of life and death for patients.




Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)


Saudi health officials have introduced measures to ensure adequate stocks in blood banks, including those run by the health ministry and dedicated centers. These include a large facility at King Fahad Medical City and the country’s Central Blood Bank.

Donors in the Kingdom must be aged over 17, weigh more than 50 kg and have passed a brief medical examination.

Wateen provides a seamless interface where people can locate their nearest blood bank and other facilities without having to trawl the internet, which often provides “useless and superficial” information, according to Alhesayani.

“The approach is to tap Saudis’ inherent compassion and brotherhood, and turn it into a tangible service. Freeing people of their reservations and misunderstandings regarding blood donations, and partnering with like-minded individuals and organizations is at the heart of our business model.”




Ahmed Alhesayani (foreground) was one of the young Saudi co-founders of Wateen and helped to launch the service in early 2019. (Supplied)

Alhesayani belongs to a generation of young Saudis responsible for a wave of innovations in health-tech solutions — a trend that has been nurtured by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, which seeks to diversify national industries away from oil and build a dynamic, knowledge-based economy.

“I found myself in this project when I finished my first semester in the college of law,” said Alhesayani, a graduate of King Saud University in Riyadh.

“It started after an invitation from a friend to leave my part-time job as a bookseller and join a team driven by the desire to make an impact, with a clear vision to change the blood-bank system and help the community. I was impressed by a short conversation I had with him, so I left my job and joined in the early stages of the project.”

As the startup grew and its destination became clearer, Alhesayani was handed the operational lead in recognition of his energy and passion for the project. “I was a 19-year-old student, but it is possible to handle it if you are hungry to learn and achieve,” he said.

FASTFACTS

56 Ideal gap between whole blood donations in days.

3 Lives that can be saved by a single donation.

10 Average adult’s blood volume in pints.

1 Typical whole-blood donation volume in pints.

(Source: Cedars-Sinai)

Leading operations was one of the most complex parts of the project, with responsibility for more than 150 blood banks in over 20 regions, thousands of users and more than 40 health ministry representatives — all at least 10 years older than Alhesayani.

“I have funny stories about dealing with older people from hugely different backgrounds,” he said. “The operations were not only about that, but the platform would have been useless if it were not integrated with all blood banks.”

Qualified training, including data entry, appointments and donation requests, was needed for nurses, doctors and the staff providing the service for donors. The work meant Alhesayani often had to travel while continuing his university studies.

“At Wateen, we have weekly, monthly and yearly key performance indicators that help us achieve our targets and grow rapidly,” he said. “I was committed to achieving more than what they were looking for, and my team and I completed the annual target after only four months of hard work.”




Wateen acts as a platform with a growing number of features and is integrated under the name of Sehhaty and Blood Bank Management System.

Alhesayani said that the Qimam Fellowship — an intensive 12-day training program launched in 2018 to empower the Kingdom’s high-potential university students through one-to-one mentoring and career guidance — was a vital step in his career development.

One of the student participants, Ahmed Alenzi, joined Wateen’s operations team in early 2019 after being recommended by his mentor.

“I worked with Alenzi for a while, and saw how clever, hard working and smart he was, with a real passion for success,” Alhesayani told Arab News. “Later on, I asked him about Qimam, how to apply and the benefits it offers.”

The young entrepreneur added: “Qimam is not only a period program but also provides friends and colleagues for life — people you will always be proud of, learn from, and potential and promising partners you will love to work with.”

At the end of 2019, as a culmination of his work at Wateen, Alhesayani and his team applied for the King Khalid Award for the nonprofit sector in the GCC, and won, gaining the recognition of King Salman.

Today, Wateen acts as a platform with a growing number of features, including additional information from other health ministry platforms, and is integrated under the name of Sehhaty and Blood Bank Management System.




Wateen has become a recruitment tool for the ministry to motivate potential donors. (AFP file photo)

With 520,000 users, 962,000 donations and 440,000 appointments, Wateen has become a recruitment tool for the ministry to motivate potential donors and meet the needs of blood banks.

“Wateen has come to fruition for the overall advancement of Saudi Arabia’s healthcare infrastructure,” Alhesayani said.

“The country has an advanced infrastructure on many counts, but there is plenty of scope for improvement when it comes to blood donation. Saudi Arabia is growing and progressing rapidly in such areas as artificial intelligence, data and innovation, which will create a seamless customer experience in people’s daily or seasonal needs.

“The healthcare system is one of them. Wateen is just one example of the vast tech transformations occurring in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health.”

__________________
Twitter: @CalineMalek


Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition
Updated 14 sec ago

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition
  • Makkah scouts claimed second place in the Fawzi Farghali Prize for Creativity in Islamic Scout Work
  • Farghali was an Egyptian who served as the Arab Regional Scout Executive for the World Scout Bureau in 2009

JEDDAH: The Makkah youth scout team won second place at this year’s Fawzi Farghali Prize for Creativity in Islamic Scout Work, it was announced on Sunday.

The prize is organized by the International Union of Muslim Scouts, which said the Makkah scouts had come second out of 59 entrants.

Head of the Makkah team Bakr Al-Tumbkti said the scouts were committed to the highest professional standards.

He stressed the importance of attracting more members who were scientifically, practically, and academically compatible to reach the widest section of society.

“Contributing to all national and religious occasions within governmental, private, voluntary, economic, sports, cultural, social and commercial entities is a key to success,” he said.

He added that the presence of the Makkah youth scout team in these fields had helped them to attain the silver-level place in the global scout field for social initiatives.

The International Union of Muslim Scouts tweeted on Saturday: “Cairo will host a ceremony to honor the winners of the late Fawzi Farghali prizes for creativity in Islamic scouting work on September 17, 2022, at the headquarter of the Egyptian Federation for Scouts and Guides.”

Its secretary-general Dr. Zuhair Ghoneim said the union had adopted this award, which carried the name of one of the best scout leaders in Islamic countries, the late Fawzi Farghali, as appreciation for the efforts, support, and services that he had provided to the union.

Ghoneim wished the winners every success. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to the chairman of the media, communication, and documentation committee at the union, his colleagues, and the award committee for their efforts.

Farghali was an Egyptian who served as the Arab Regional Scout Executive for the World Scout Bureau in 2009.

In 1986, he received the 186th Bronze Wolf from the World Scout Committee for his exceptional services.


‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 August 2022

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
  • Six leading Saudi women to advise students on business startups
  • Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University to run 6-month course

JEDDAH: Luxury watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin has launched its second “One of Not Many” business mentorship program in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

The company had initially run its first project in the UAE in 2020.

Six Saudi women leaders have been selected to mentor undergraduate students over six months. The program is aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 and aims to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs.

Christophe Ramel, regional Brand Director Middle East at Vacheron Constantin, said: “The Kingdom represents huge promises and great potential, and the Maison values are aligned closely with Saudi Vision 2030.

“We, at Vacheron Constantin, realize the importance of passing down skills to the next generation to support the leaders of tomorrow. We wish all selected students a fruitful program ahead and look forward to witnessing them excel towards their career ambitions.”

Shahd Al-Shehail, entrepreneur and co-founder of Ethical Luxury Brand Abadia, said that the small choices people make every day matter and young people should continue to work hard and not be afraid of failure.

Aya Al-Bitar, Saudi product and furniture designer, and founder of AYA the Art of Living, said she would encourage students to explore their heritage and individuality if they choose to enter her field.

Emon Shakoor, founder and CEO of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia's first female-focused and inclusivity accelerator, said: “As an entrepreneur, it’s not about how much resources you have but about how resourceful you can be. Every individual has the power to create the life that they have dreamed of and to achieve it. This program will definitely allow the student to understand and execute the things that they actually want in life and never take no for an answer.”

Nora Aldabal, arts and creative industries executive director at The Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Saudi Arabia is a gold mine of inspiration; inspiration attracts talent and talent gets ideas. This program will accelerate individuals to be the most creative version of themselves.”

Nouf Al-Moajil, strategic analyst and CEO of the Eastern Province Social Responsibility Council, said she would advise students to explore and follow their passion, even in a new area of business. They should try to be as authentic as possible, she said.

Basma El-Khereiji, chef and entrepreneur, and founder of the Social Kitchen, said students should be passionate about what they do and allow people to feel and appreciate it.

After successfully completing the program, students have the opportunity to embark on an internship program with Vacheron Constantin or any other Richemont Maison.


Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
  • “Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News

RIYADH: Many young singers have discovered a home for their talent thanks to Saudi Arabia’s increased focus on music and the establishment of a music commission in 2020 that aims to develop non-discriminatory access to music education.

Noha Al-Sehemi, a 17-year-old Saudi singer, is one of them.

At 15, she was able to produce her first song on social media. Her songs highlight some traumas that she has experienced and the feeling of being misunderstood, which sparked the inner struggles that many teenagers feel.

Now she has launched a song called “Good Luck Sleepin’,” where she speaks about this inner conflict.

“Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News.

Her song was played on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music. She has performed her work at a series of events, one of them at the American embassy.

“I was flown out to Washington, DC by the Saudi embassy for the celebration of the national day in 2019,” she said.

Al-Sehemi prefers English music due to her family’s exposure to it.

“Growing up with a musical family helped me a lot, and when I was a child I always loved games that had music in them, like Guitar Hero, and I was curious about music,” she said. “I was exposed to many song genres and was influenced by them.”

Al-Sehemi describes her music genre as funk and likes classic rock, hip hop, R&B and jazz.

She plays piano and guitar. Although she has written a number of songs, she has decided to focus more on her vocals at the moment.

Al-Sehemi met a group of talented people in Open Night Mice, who helped her to produce her song in 2019.

“We got to know each other at an open mic night in August 2019 and it’s a Saudi Music Community initiative, and we recorded the song in my house,” she said.

“They all put in their own touches, so it was like a collective project with many different perspectives and tastes embedded in the song,” she said.

Al-Sehemi intends to record an entire album where she expresses her opinions and speaks directly to other teenagers who share her sentiments.

“I have been working on an album for three years now and many songs will be out soon and the lyrics of the music will tell you so much about what I feel, and I stopped being a stubborn person who wants to be a perfectionist about every song,” she said. “I usually throw away any song I don’t like initially, but now I just do what I believe in and everything else will follow.”


Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
Updated 07 August 2022

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
  • The world’s largest date palm oasis is generating a new era of prosperity

RIYADH: Al-Ahsa, the world’s largest date palm oasis, is generating a new era of prosperity following the launch of a new development authority.

On May 12, the Kingdom formed the board of directors for the Al-Ahsa Development Authority, headed by Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province.

The move aims to enhance the governorate’s potential while helping develop the tourism, heritage and cultural aspects of Al-Ahsa.

The authority will create a balanced and sustainable development environment that supports the governorate’s economy and promotes development, modernization and diversity, according to the state press agency.

“The decision reflects the leadership’s keenness to invest in the comparative advantage of Al-Ahsa and to utilize it in economic projects that will align with Vision 2030,” Ibraheem Alshekmubarak, secretary-general at Al-Ahsa Chamber of Commerce, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Ibraheem Alshekmubarak

The city of 1.3 million people was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2018.

UNESCO said: “The city has an ancient tradition of handicrafts, considered cultural and social practices passed on from generation to generation.

“Around 50 expressions of crafts and folk art have remained throughout the city’s history and bear witness to Al-Ahsa’s scenic wealth, including textiles from palm trees, pottery, weaving and joinery.”

Boosting tourism

The governorate hosts 36 weekly open markets and stages several festivals a year.

“When we talk about tourism in Al-Ahsa, we are talking about agricultural, heritage and natural tourism,” Alshekmubarak said.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Tourism launched a high-profile investment conference in the city called Destination Tomorrow.
The conference showcased Saudi destinations to local investors and international operators.

“Post pandemic, people are a little bit more conservative internationally regarding cross-border investment. But we are proving to be a destination attracting quite a decent amount of interest,” Mahmoud Abdulhadi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for investment attraction, told Arab News.

The Kingdom seeks to generate 10 percent of the gross domestic product from the tourism sector and to attract over 100 million visitors by the end of this decade, creating an additional 1 million jobs in the sector.

“We want to make the sector stand on its own two feet. So we are keen on large private sector investment to come in, even as we are mindful that the whole sector is built on small and medium enterprises,” added Abdulhadi.

The city’s chamber of commerce led several initiatives to support SMEs, monitoring the sectors most affected by the pandemic to keep them formulating plans and drawing strategies that help them overcome the damage.

“Al-Ahsa Chamber organized a set of development initiatives and advisory services provided to entrepreneurs through the Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman Center for Business Development,” Alshekmubarak added.

Airport expansion

Al-Ahsa airport’s capacity will more than double the expectations of fast regional growth, Fahad Alharbi, the CEO of Dammam Airports Co., said in an earlier interview with Arab News.

The city’s airport has a capacity of around 400,000 passengers but aspires to reach 1 million, Alharbi added.

Saudi Aramco mainly uses the facility, but before the pandemic struck, there was commercial activity from two or three local destinations and another two or three international sites.

“With the economic and tourism boom expected in Al-Ahsa, the development of Al-Ahsa International Airport is the most in need of projects at present,” said Alshekmubarak.

Business destination

Essam Al-Mulla

The city is already growing in businesses as the Ministry of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing announced in June that the investment opportunities in the city increased by 53 percent in 2021, with 362 available options on its online portal.

The total value of these investments exceeded SR275 million, Essam Al-Mulla, the mayor of Al-Ahsa, told Arab News.

The available opportunities in the portal in 2022 already reached 112 investments, said the Saudi Minister of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, according to the Saudi Press Agency.


Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality

Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality
Updated 06 August 2022

Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality

Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality
  • Goal is to establish Saudi Arabia as the main immersive hub in the region, and possibly the world

RIYADH: Saudi technology experts are putting the latest developments in artificial intelligence into the hands of gamers attending a major international festival in the Kingdom.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has partnered with the Saudi Esports Federation for the Gamers8 event taking place in Riyadh to showcase the most recent advances in augmented and virtual reality technologies.

And Ahmed Abdulrahman, the immersive lab manager on Ithra’s Creative Solutions program, believes the futuristic AI seen in many current sci-fi movies could become publicly available within five to 10 years.

The GameDev Zone interior, buzzing with eager and curious Saudis looking to try the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Technologies on show at the festival focus not just on gaming but also interactive and immersive experiences, entertainment, and learning.

Abdulrahman pointed out that the kind of VR gadgets seen in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 adventure film “Ready Player One,” were now readily available. Ithra even had a haptic Teslasuit and glove (technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and motions to the user) that members of the public could test out.

FASTFACTS

• One of the Ithra winners’ projects, ‘The Anticipation of Rain,’ lets people sense rain by wearing a VR headset.

• Ithra even had a haptic Teslasuit and glove (technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and motions to the user) that members of the public could test out.

“We can put people into some games that utilize all the technologies together, where they can walk around and feel every hit in the game. It’s full immersion. It’s not 2045, it’s 2022,” he told Arab News.

The GameDev Zone interior, buzzing with eager and curious Saudis looking to try the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in Riyadh. (Supplied)

In Riyadh Boulevard City, where Gamers8 is in full flow, the Creative Solutions’ GameDev zone features prototype games developed within 72 hours or less, as well as the program cohorts’ five previous winning designs, plus internationally developed video games.

While the available VR experiences are not fully equipped, they still allow visitors to get the general idea behind the immersive stories.

One of the Ithra winners’ projects, “The Anticipation of Rain,” lets people sense rain by wearing a VR headset. Its developer, Naima Karim, tells how she became paralyzed at a young age, but discovered a love for painting through the influence of rain. “There were so many people who were moved with it, they just took off their headset to cry,” Abdulrahman said.

Other AR projects take users on a journey through the history of the universe or on a mission to find hidden objects, similar to the “Pokemon GO” mobile game.

The main entrance to Ithra's Creative Solutions GameDev Zone in partnership with the biggest Esports festival globally, Gamers8, in Riyadh Boulevard City. (Supplied)

Next to the zone’s five winners’ booths are a selection of internationally developed gaming programs including “The Climb 2,” “Loco Dojo,” “Beat Saber,” and a PS5 Playroom.

Filipe Gomez, Creative Solutions program curator, told Arab News: “There are developers pointing to a future where no screens are going to exist. Everything will be projected.”

Amr Bogari, a conceptual artist and AI enthusiast, said: “This reflects a good mental image over time, and is expected from our government, as it is a great supporter of this development and progress that advances humanity.

“But, in general, it depends on a person’s use. The abundance of technology can reduce the spiritual aspect, and this applies in many examples. Our role is to create a moderate space that combines reality and assumption.”

On the GameDev zone, Gomez said: “The level of engagement from the public was incredible. For me, it really reflects an eagerness to learn and to develop and get ready. The creativity is there.”

The Ithra program team aims to create one-of-a-kind experiences that people of all backgrounds can enjoy.

Abdulrahman said: “They’re all proud. That’s the one word I can say. Everyone who is trying them, when they see them, they’re just amazed about the quality of work even though we call them prototypes.”

And the program goal was to establish Saudi Arabia as the main immersive hub in the region, and possibly the world.

“It depends on us, and stakeholders such as Ithra that pushes a specific agenda that really cares about how the people will be impacted through this transformation, to prepare them to be good decision-makers. When it comes to creative solutions, they create humanistic solutions,” Gomez added.