Mandatory use of Tawakkalna app to access public places gets mixed reaction in Saudi Arabia

Technical issues with the app earlier this week left many people unable to access it. (SPA)
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Updated 06 February 2021

Mandatory use of Tawakkalna app to access public places gets mixed reaction in Saudi Arabia

  • Expert called app a ‘safety medal’ for citizens, residents for facing down virus

RIYADH: There have been mixed reactions to the mandatory use of Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 app to access places such as hotels, malls and restaurants.
Tawakkalna was launched last year to help track coronavirus infections. It has since developed and been updated to include vaccination information, including an individual’s status such as vaccinated or infected, and now functions as a COVID-19 “passport.”
Technical issues with the app earlier this week left many people unable to access it — meaning they were unable to gain entry to public spaces.
Dr. Osama Ghanem Alobaidy, a law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said everybody had raced to download the app. “I personally could not log on to the app throughout Thursday and part of Friday,” he told Arab News.
Tawakkalna management should have anticipated the large volume of app users and the pressure that this demand would put on its operation, he added.
“Any malfunction to this app after it became mandatory will have an adverse effect on the local economy since no individual will be allowed into any government or private establishment if the app on his or her mobile phone is not working. In addition, I did not receive any message from Tawakkalna as claimed to allow temporary access. So I called the Tawakkalna toll free number and was informed that a message would be sent shortly providing me a temporary permit but that did not materialize.”
However Dr. Majed Al-Hedayan, a financial and legal expert, called Tawakkalna a “safety medal” for citizens and residents for facing down coronavirus.
“It is a very distinct service that is unique to Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “This is the fruit of investment in the knowledge economy, which contributes to the improvement of public services, especially health.”

HIGHLIGHT

Launched by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority last year, the application saw over 200 million operations being made within a 24 hour period. A majority of registered users were locked out of the app. Those unregistered breathed a slight sigh of relief Friday as the app gradually showed signs of working again.

The technical issues had improved on Friday, with the app functioning for many, but some people were still experiencing glitches.
Belal Akhtar, an IT consultant at King Saud University, went to the supermarket on Thursday for her weekly shop. “I was trying to log into the app since the morning and only succeeded in the evening,” she told Arab News. “Though I successfully logged in, the connection was not stable and when I reached the destination, I saw a very long queue at the entrance. Most of the people were telling the same story, facing difficulties in accessing the app.”
PR consultant Ayman Hassan was not having problems with the app, which he had been using since the early days of its launch. “Those who have been using the app from the beginning are not facing any issues,” he told Arab News. “It’s working well with me. I heard so many stories about (the app) crashing and people advising the best time to try, but for me, thankfully, no issues yet.”
Pakistani expat Faiz Al-Najdi, who works in Yanbu, said he and his wife were denied entry to a pharmacy and then a mall in the port city because his app was down.
“However Friday morning I was surprised to receive an SMS, from Tawakkalna, providing me with a permit to show security to allow me to enter any public place,” he told Arab News.

Decoder

Tawakkalna

The Tawakkalna is an app developed by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) to support government efforts in countering Covid-19. It facilitates the issuance of movement permits electronically during the curfew period for those who are exempted from the curfew, thus helping to reduce the spread of the pandemic in the Kingdom.


Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

Updated 39 min ago

Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

A royal order has recently approved Nabil Khojah as the secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority.

Khojah received a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the College of Industrial Management of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 1996.

Nearly three years ago, he attended a leadership program designed for senior executives, Harvard Business School (HBS).

Khojah, who has served as CEO of Mosanada Logistics Services since 2019, brings extensive experience in the logistics industry to his role.

For four years beginning in 2008, he worked as the managing director at Exel, a joint venture business between DHL and Al-Olayan Group, a multinational enterprise with an actively managed portfolio of global investments.

Between 2012 and 2018, he served as the chief executive officer of Saudia Cargo, one of the Middle East’s leading air cargo carrier and cargo ground handling companies. His responsibilities included reporting to the company’s board of directors and overseeing a business with an extensive global network.

He has also held leadership positions with Unilever KSA and the Royal Saudi Air Force, among others.

From 2001 to 2003, he worked for Unilever, where he occupied a series of more senior positions, including manager of business systems, manager of the supply chain and logistics department, and manager of market demand planning. For three years beginning in 2003, he served as the regional manager for logistics and imported products in Dubai.

Khojah then moved to DHL as the general manager for transport and logistics, later becoming general manager of the company at its headquarters in Saudi Arabia.


More countries condemn Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Updated 28 February 2021

More countries condemn Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

  • The Houthis in Yemen launched six drones at the south of the Kingdom, all of which were shot down
  • The coalition also intercepted a ballistic missile targeting Riyadh

LONDON: Jordan, the UK, the EU and Qatar joined the widespread global condemnation of attacks by an Iran-backed militia on Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis in Yemen launched six drones at the south of the Kingdom, all of which were shot down by the Arab coalition.
The coalition also intercepted a ballistic missile targeting Riyadh.
“The UK condemns the latest Houthi missile and drone attacks targeted at Saudi Arabia and Marib,” foreign minister Dominic Raab said. “These put innocent lives at risk, and show that those responsible are not serious about peace, let alone protecting the Yemeni people.”


Jordan also condemned the “continued targeting of cities in Saudi Arabia” by the Houthis.
Jordan “condemns these cowardly terrorist acts and the targeting of innocent civilians which constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” a foreign ministry statement said.
The statement said that Jordan stands with the Kingdom in the face of anything that “threatens its safety or the safety of the Saudi people.”
Qatar strongly condemned the Houthi ballistic missile attack that targeted Riyadh and said it was “a dangerous act against civilians which contravenes all international norms and laws.”
In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry reiterated the state’s firm position on rejecting violence, criminal and subversive acts regardless of the motives behind them.


The EU’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman also condemned the attacks against the Kingdom.
“Such attacks which are endangering civilians, increasing regional instability and delaying the prospect of a solution to the Yemen conflict must stop,” Patrick Simonnet said.


Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi

Updated 28 February 2021

Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi

  • Pakistan in “solidarity” with Saudi Arabia to bring Khashoggi killers to justice
  • Kingdom took all measures to convict people responsible for the crime, Foreign Office says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special adviser on religious harmony and the Middle East has denied the findings of a US intelligence report containing an “assessment” of the Jamal Khashoggi murder case, calling it “baseless.”
Saudi journalist Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 at the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to complete paperwork related to his divorce.
“The Saudi government fulfilled the requirements of justice, and propaganda against the Kingdom’s leadership is baseless,” Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), said during a convention in Lahore on Saturday.
He expressed solidarity with the Kingdom, adding that ties between the two countries “are strong and permanent, and nothing can dent the relationship.
“There has been a negative campaign against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since day one, but he laid down the foundations for polices of moderation in Saudi Arabia, and his Vision 2030 is for the development of the Kingdom and the entire Arab World,” Ashrafi said.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan on Saturday also expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia after the release of the report, saying that Islamabad recognized the Kingdom’s efforts to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice.
In an official statement issued in Islamabad, the Foreign Office noted that the Saudi authorities had described the killing as an “abhorrent crime” and a “flagrant violation” of the Kingdom’s laws and values.
“The Saudi government has further underlined that it took all possible measures within its legal system to ensure that the individuals responsible were properly investigated, convicted and sentenced, and that justice was served,” the statement continued.
“Pakistan underscores adherence to the rule of law, respect for national sovereignty, and protection and promotion of human rights by all states, in accordance with their respective constitutional frameworks and international obligations,” it added.
Saudi Arabia has already rebuffed the contents of the report, saying that it “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”
The Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry noted that people responsible for the killing had been convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts, and that “these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”


Saudi Arabia announces 6 more COVID-19 deaths

Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 6 more COVID-19 deaths

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 368,305
  • A total of 6,494 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced six deaths from COVID-19 and 322 new infections on Sunday.
Of the new cases, 167 were recorded in Riyadh, 66 in the Eastern Province, 37 in Makkah, eight in Asir, eight in Najran, five in Madinah, five in Jazan and four in Hail.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 368,305 after 294 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,494 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.


Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

  • Eye-catching traditional pieces that women wear on key occasions highlight the Kingdom’s diverse heritage

MAKKAH: With Saudi Arabia’s diverse and colorful cultural traditions, fashion serves as a medium where foreigners and citizens can meet.
Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others, and Saudi Arabia’s traditional clothing is no different.
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions, while others made sure they showed off traditional fashion items.
For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an “American Saudi,” caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.
Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land.
“The fashion scene was remarkable at the Saudi Cup. I am going to dub it the ‘Met Gala’ of Saudi Arabia in future. Saudi Arabia has such an old fashion heritage, so it was wonderful to be able to take a trip through history and to tell the world a story,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing.

Brandi Janow

“As a history lover, this is probably one of the best places that I can be to see so many remarkable sights with my own eyes,” she added.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s heritage, fashionable guests appeared in pieces that highlighted the Kingdom’s diverse heritage, including intricately embroidered daglahs for men and the heavily embellished zaboon worn by the women of Hijaz.
Janow calls Saudi Arabia her home and is “happy my journey brought me here.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an ‘American Saudi,’ caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels. 

• Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land. She calls Saudi Arabia her home and is ‘happy my journey brought me here.’

The private sector worker is also the program director for art, culture, media and entertainment at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kingdom and also manages Smuug, a small business where she designs and sells products based on her illustrations.
“Before I came to Saudi Arabia I had never traveled outside North America, so I was quite excited to see a new place. I cannot say that I ever experienced culture shock, but I was in awe of how different the country was from my own. It is really beautiful how big the world is, and how different (and the same) we all are,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing. I really think that humanity cannot prosper without change, growth and evolution.
“This is the natural way of life. As someone who works in the creative industry, it has been such a pleasure to watch the blossoming of talent,” said Janow.