Assess and triage (resilience phase)
The KSA has suffered 129 deaths per million inhabitants, ranking it the 41st hardest hit country in the world out of 150 countries recorded as of 16th September.1
Rising digital demand:2
- Demand for digital services in Saudi Arabia has increased.
- To meet this demand, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) hustled to collaborated with other government entities to enhance digital services by strengthening their communications infrastructure.
- In addition, data costs were waived for the health app, Sehha, e-learning platforms and the Tawakkalna app, for movement permits after curfew. CITC also assisted with the launch of Tabaud, a social distancing app that helps people know if they have encountered an infected individual.
- In March 2020, Saudi mobile service providers were temporarily licensed to use an additional 40 MHz in the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands, a 50% increase in the spectrum holdings for service providers.
Stabilize and emerge (recovery phase)
Reopening the economy:3
- Public sector employees resumed workplace attendance on August 30.
- The decision came following a review of reports on the health indicators and data on Saudi Arabia’s cities and regions
- Heads of government entities are authorized to allow persons to request remote work, provided that the percentage of employees working from home does not exceed 25%
- The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has set conditions for the return of all employees to their place of work:
- The agency should enable those working remotely to be able to do so.
- Those agencies that are at the highest risk of infection will continue working remotely.
- Employee attendance will continue with flexible hours.
- The use of fingerprint requirements will be suspended.
- On 23rd July 2020, the authorities announced the opening of land borders with Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE so that Saudi citizens could enter without a prior authorization.
- On August 2, one thousand pilgrims completed the 2020 Hajj ritual
- On August 4, it was announced that travel restrictions on trucks carrying goods from neighboring GCC countries were lifted.
- On August 24, land borders reopened to Saudi citizens and their non-Saudi family members.
Adapt and rethink (new reality)
“My school is in my home”4
- Continuing our commentary on the development of the iEN portal, providing e-educational services to students, teachers, educational leaders, supervisors and parents, the KSA has joined the tide of countries leveraging digitally enabled, remote education to support the safe start of the new academic year.
- Over six million male and female students are scheduled to resume on Sunday their education journey remotely under the motto “My school is in my home”, at the start of an exceptional school year amid the pandemic.
- Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education (MoE) announced the launch of its new Madrasati (My school) platform for distance learning last week before the start of the academic year. Madrasati allows teachers to create virtual classes and offers students a variety of content, including presentations, educational videos, textbooks, exercises and courses for different levels: elementary, intermediate and secondary.
- This is one of the Saudi government’s many initiatives to enhance distance education nationwide. Classes in Saudi Arabia will be held online for at least the first seven weeks of the new academic school year as part of a drive to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with an estimated six million students and half a million teachers across the Kingdom signing in to the new Madrasati platform to join virtual classes every morning.6
- The Ministry of Education has also prepared 23 education channels (Ain satellite channels) to broadcast lessons according to a study schedule.
- These include three channels for special education, which it has archived on “YouTube” for reference at any time, where a student who does not have a smart device or Internet service can receive his lessons through the Ain channels.
- New apps for new digital ecosystems2
- The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has made available over three dozen new delivery apps in the past six months to improve the experience and quality of service in the delivery app market taking the total number of apps available to 46.
- Most of the apps are for door-to-door delivery of food, parcels and groceries or the ordering of services such as ride hailing.
- The number of Saudi delivery agents has increased by 500%, which has led to an increase in executed orders by more than 240%, according to government figures.
Deeper relations with India:5
- In a recent seminar on bilateral economic relations, the Indian ambassador to the KSA, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, announced two investment proposals the two countries are working on to form a new reality as they emerge from the pandemic.
- With the education sector witnessing changes, the Ambassador said that the Kingdom has expressed interest in setting up an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Saudi Arabia.
- Further joint ventures in aviation, infrastructure and logistics are also likely.
- The second proposal concerned talks to set up “Air Bubble arrangements” like those held between India and both Kuwait and the UAE, which may or may not lead to overall freer movement between the two countries than was apparent prior to the pandemic.