Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives (300 words maximum)
The COVID-19 pandemic is a battle fought on multiple fronts. In addition to the health and wellbeing of society, business continuity and everyday lifewhichis key to maintain sustainability. Like many other countries, the national COVID-19 app, Tawakkalna, was developed by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) and Ministry of Health to support government efforts in response to pandemic across two phases. Firstly, a lockdown continuity of services delivery and pandemic response to distribute a steady flow of information and advice for facilitation of booking COVID tests, issuing digital mobility permits required during lockdown for stakeholders. Tawakkalna was then complimented with vaccination bookings, test results and COVID-19 “passport” functionalities for domestic and international use. Second, as the pandemic evolved, and lockdown restrictions were loosening Tawakkalna shifted focus on a return to normal life by evolving into a life event solution to mitigate the health, welfare, and socio-economic factors. Merging existing and new services, Tawakkalna now serves as a full “lockdown and return to normal life” event app, containing personal and householder overviews of COVID-19 information and services, health, education, and social services. As a result, Tawakkalna now has 144 high-frequency, high-impact services required by the individual, families, and householders to effectively manage life during lockdown and as Saudi society return to normal. In additional to COVID-19 related content, information, data and transactional services integrated into Tawakkalna includes: virtual learning for primary; secondary, tertiary education; personal and family health data, and; social services, etc. Tawakkalna has 25 million registered users and accessed by 5 million individuals daily. The app provides a mashup of personal content, and family dependents like children, spouses, and other individuals in a household in a single overview. Information, data and services come from the integration of 25 government entities and is in line with Saudi privacy and data protection requirements.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category (100 words maximum)
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saudi government focused on the health and safety of citizens and residents from the risk of the virus.. The initial focus of Tawakkalna was the fast, effective, and cost-efficient dissemination of relevant information, advise and regulations in a targeted, user-centric everyday language to issue electronic movement permits during lockdown curfews, booking and results of tests, vaccinations etc. As the pandemic evolved, Tawakkalna uniquely developed into a “lockdown and return to normal” life event super app consisting of 144 governmental and non-governmental services to make life as normal as possible while emphasizing remote, virtual access to services, maintaining a high level of business continuity and minimizing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation (200 words maximum)
Tawakkalna specifically underpins SDG3, 8, 11 and 17. First, it targets SDG3 in relation to disease prevention and treatments by:
-Alerting, monitoring and controlling spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, improving and leveraging common information systems and technology.
-COVID-19 test and vaccination appointment, emergency medical and movement permits during curfew to attend medical appointments and for general well-being such as exercise permits.
-Inter-connect with other ICT-based initiatives for providing medical and humanitarian assistance in emergencies, blood and organ donations.
Second, Tawakkalna supports the general quality and wellbeing of individuals and communities (SDG11), access to relevant services needed for business continuity (SDG17) and to minimize the economic impact of the pandemic (SDG8) by:
-Merging 144 services from different entities, relevant information and data from 25 government entities identified as essential entities for their services for a full “lockdown and return to normal” life event.
-Personalizing the mash-up of content related to healthcare, welfare, assisted living services, public and private primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational educational services, social and financial services. This allows for individualized views and functionalities such as but not limited to: entire household views of a spouse; children or other dependents; allowing for Covid-19 test or vaccination booking for a whole household, and; communication with health professionals and teachers etc.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms (100 words maximum)
In case of another pandemic/curfew, it will help relevant stakeholders, to automatize transactions between relevant parties to mitigate health, economic, environmental, and social impacts resulting from the policies taken to eliminate spread of COVID-19 and to continue business.
It assists in maintaining sustainability through new services contributing to everyday life in education or health or in digitization of government services where ID and other relevant documents (e.g. national eID) can be accessed from Tawakkalna.
With a focus on intergovernmental coordination and collaboration, the 25 million registered users (i.e. citizens, residents, visitors aged 15 or over in KSA), have access to a personalized and continuously updated dashboard of information, data and 144 services.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
Saudi Arabia acknowledges the importance of digital technologies in accessible, inclusive and value adding public services for all – both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Saudi leadership have yielded positive results and controlled the number of COVID-19 cases in the country but have also paid attention to business continuity and service delivery during the pandemic.
Tawakkalna has been developed to safeguard health. In doing so, the automation of services and the digitization of service interaction have been actively promoted. The focus of the Phase 2 initiative was to develop Tawakkalna into a “lockdown and return to normal” life event application. The solution was developed with a specific focus to complement the existing COVID-19 preventive and precautionary protocols and measures with a mash-up of personalized content, data and services most needed for business continuity and a sense of normality for citizens whether in lockdown or adhering to guidelines on social distancing, not least for students, parents, teachers but also through social security services for low-income households, persons with disabilities, the elderly etc.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
Tawakkalna targets both genders and all age groups aged 15 or older. During curfew, Tawakkalna allowed individuals, security, health and private entities, to automatize all transactions between relevant parties in order to mitigate the health, economic and social impacts that may result from them implementation of policies taken to eliminate the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, 36% of the development and maintenance team are women.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
It was launched to serve and protect individuals, citizens, GCC citizens, residents, employees, and visitors of Saudi Arabia against COVID-19. Tawakkalna acts as a communication channel easing communication between government and citizens across Saudi society. The second phase of development focused on the gradually returning to normal life by focusing on increased business continuity, and remote, virtual access to services to comply with social distancing recommendations and requirements. In doing so Tawakkalna as a public-public partnership, have merged 144 services (e.g. education, social services) into the app while maintaining highest levels of safety and privacy. These new services target different stakeholders including household, students, teachers, people with disabilities, the elderly, etc.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
In light of the urgency of the pandemic response, and the ever-changing requirements regulations agility and flexibility in the design, testing, development and maintenance of Tawakkalna solution was the only realistic option.
-Phase 1 included: The key conceptual design completed on 07-03-2020. Alpha version developed and launched to test functionality and features on 15-03-2020. It included basic features such as alerts, track-and-trace with maintaining of user’s privacy, COVID-19 tests with results and issuing permits, single sign-on with national ID, etc. Beta version updates between 20 and 25-03-2020 included the adjustments of exercising permits, delivery and government work permits services as these were deemed particularly problematic for end-users. First full version was launched on 04-05-2020.
- Phase 2 which is the core of this submission included: Redesign to be a “lockdown and return to normal” life event application for other services. With an agile approach focused on adding clusters of services: General healthcare services in March 2020, Educational services in August 2020; Social and financial services December 2020.
During the return of Saudi’s from abroad, Tawakkalna was integrated with services to ensure quarantine requirements were followed. This functionality was expanded as international travel restrictions were loosened in April 2021, where relevant data of individuals arriving to KSA were automatically integrated into the app once downloaded (picture, bio metrics, test and vaccination status),where the app is tailored to individual profiles.
The functionality and services integrated are based on continuous monitoring of user behavior and internal analysis. It constantly monitors for impact assessment through: User-feedback, # of users and return users, use-time, and use-journeys as well as the up and down times. The possible user-segments are applied to ensure easy and intuitive access by those most at risk from marginalization, such as: women, seniors, persons with disabilities, low-income and rural communities.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
The speed required for the implementation and shift from Phase 1 to 2 was particularly challenging with respect to the user-testing of new features, so an agile approach combined with soft launch of functions was used to compensate.
In addition, the volume and frequency of use combined with a need for high level of security and privacy due to the personal sensitivity of the content was a challenge. To minimize that, Tawakkalna worked with key entities focused on cyber security and privacy using cloud, national ID and only storing the personal data in app when a user is logged in to increase trust and privacy whilst maintaining the privacy of user’s data.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
Tawakkalna was launched to help track coronavirus cases. The innovation is in phase 2 as a “lockdown and return to normal” life event app. Merging 144 services, relevant information and data from 25 government entities, it provides an innovative and personalized overview related to healthcare, welfare, assisted living services, public and private primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education, social and financial services. This allows for individualized views and functionalities plus entire household views of e.g. a spouse, children or other dependents, in addition to allowing for test or vaccination booking for a whole household, communication with health professionals and teachers etc.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiatives in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
Three key sources of inspiration lead to the development of Phase 2 as a “lockdown and return to normal life” app:
- Personalized MyPage, MyOverview functionalities on the Danish citizen portal borger.dk or globally in Electronic Patient Journals.
- SHEFAA portal in UAE which acts as digital communication between patients and service providers for access to medical info and record.
- Piloted life-event and user-journeys seen in both Saudi Arabia for e.g. buying, building or renting a property, change of address life event in Denmark but also integrated health treatment journeys for e.g. cancer treatment.
c. If emerging and frontier technologies were used, please state how those were integrated into the initiative and/or how the initiative embraced digital government. (100 words maximum)
Tawakkalna deploys several technologies including the app itself as a mobile application to use advanced access management, geo-fencing, personalized dashboard using data aggregation and many other technologies that are based on highly scalable, secure architecture and infrastructure. It also relies on the national eID and single sign-on infrastructure, national interoperability standards and data exchange infrastructure, the national brand design standard for common look-and-feel, cyber security and privacy standards. Similarly, SMS and QR code functionalities were integrated into the app for alerts to eliminate the need for physical contact between individuals and authorities for various services and permits.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
In the private sector, work has been done with IATA (International Air Transport Association) through an agreement to exchange health data for travelers so that this facilitates the experience of travelers to and from Saudi Arabia.
To optimize the user-experience and address individual needs of both Saudi citizens and residents abroad Tawakkalna is used by individuals in 77 countries. This allow users to continue conducting business within Saudi Arabia, and allows for citizens and residents choosing to be abroad during the pandemic to access Saudi government services in areas as diverse as education, healthcare and social security. This is done by providing a mashup of personal content, and family dependents like children, spouses, and other individuals in a household in a single overview which allows for individuals to check and access their dependent’s education status and continue to attend online schools.
On a global level, we have met with DubaiNow which is an application allowing access for over 120 city services from over from over 30 government and private sector entities in Dubai to benefit from their lessons learnt while developing their application. Moreover, the DubaiNow team leveraged Tawakkalna’s learnt lessons and experience from the first phase of the Tawakkalna app being a covid response and pandemic app.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
Other countries can replicate the concept with the availability of the proper technological infrastructure and collaboration with the respective stakeholders.
A number of elements are particularly relevant:
- The mash-up concept of an emergency and pandemic solution with information, data and services for business continuity creating a high-impact and effective “lockdown and return to normal” personalized life event app.
- The learning experience around agile development, inter- and intra-governmental coordination and collaboration re-using existing infrastructure (e.g. cloud), components (e.g. eID, data exchange), content (e.g. data and services), standards (e.g. interoperability, security, privacy, design and web accessibility), steering committees, working groups and networks to facilitate rapid an d cost-efficient development.
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
Tawakkalna is developed and maintained by cross-functional and multi-disciplinary team comprised of product managers, developers, designers working together to design, develop, test, and provide continuous updates for the app. The core team of 140 full-time employees collectively work with partner organizations to provide update existing and develop new services and mash-ups thus optimizing the operational performance and user-experience of the app. Special attention is paid to maintaining a high level of safety and privacy of individual’s data. The multi-disciplinary development and maintenance team is 36% female.
As an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the development and operational cost of Tawakkalna was funded out of the SDAIA operational budget. All entities responsible for information, data and services integrated into Tawakkalna covered the operational aspect of their services (e.g. MOH managed the covid testing centers).
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
For financial sustainability Tawakkalna is funded by multiple public and private sector stakeholders and partners.
Calculating the business case for a health emergency response is difficult, but the long-term sustainability of Tawakkalna is three-fold:
-First, the effective return from providing service delivery online and issuing permits have proven the cost efficiency in IT, productivity gains, and illustrated that service innovation led to a more effective and personalized user experience.
-Second, the whole-of-government approaches and collaboration have illustrated the positive socio-economic impact of user-centric service design.
-Third, not all services can be fully digitized while retaining the same outcomes, as illustrated by learning and health outcomes needing physical hands-on presence.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
It was evaluated internally.
Ongoing evaluations takes various forms including:
- Conducted 4 workshops with various project owners within SDAIA’s ecosystem across the two phases of Tawakkalna (Lockdown continuity and return to normal life) since it was launched to understand progress and sustainability.
- Conducted workshops with the 25 government partners and 1 workshop with DGA.
- User behavior and ad-hoc surveys conducted approx. every 7 calendar days for optimization of the solution and sub-components.
- Financial plus technical (incl. privacy and security) has been conducted every 21 calendar days since Tawakkalna’s onset of development work in April 2020.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used (100 words maximum)
For the evaluation, a set of indicators (incl. number of users/ service, impact of services on KSA population, etc) were tracked across the years of operations since April 2020.
Data leveraged from the application is complimented with service usage data and correlated with the During curfew, Continuity, and Return to normal phases. This allow for in-depth understand the impact of Tawakkalna locally and globally and identify / strengths areas of improvement.
Complimentary user-surveys in the 3rd quarter of 2021 show a 91% customer satisfaction rate. Currently, attention to be paid towards the services with the lowest users to increase customer satisfaction and overall benefit of the service.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
The evaluation has highlighted noticeable growth in Tawakkalna’s capabilities in terms of numbers of services to be 144 services, increased number of users and integrated government entities on Tawakkalna, value of output, and its coherence to realize its objective, achieve its vision and maintain sustainability.
To ensure its sustainability, it continues to add other non-health services to encourage individuals to download and utilize it increasing the number of users to currently be 25 million users.
The evaluation recommended special attention to be paid towards the services with the lowest users to increase customer satisfaction and overall benefit of the service.
Please describe how the initiative is inscribed in the relevant institutional landscape (for example, how it was situated with respect to relevant government agencies, and how the institutional relationships with those have been operating). (200 words maximum)
Tawakkalna is managed by a core team at SDAIA. Content is provided though the strategic partnership with 25 governments which are now integrated on the platform to offer 144 services and 6 datasets to enable the personalized mash-up of content. SDAIA also coordinate the Tawakkalna initiative with the Digital Government Authority responsible for the digital transformation of the public sector and the national GOV.SA portal, the Ministry of Communication and IT responsible for telecommunication, Ministry of Interior responsible for the national eID.
Tawakkalna has contributed to enhance integration between government agencies as part of efforts to achieve the digital transformation, in line with the national Vision 2030. It is also aligned with the Vision 2030 objective of the Ministry of Health of adoption of a national plan for emergency responses to public health threats in line with international standards . It fits with the COVID-19 and most importantly with the Vision 2030 goals of a competent, transparent, efficient and effective public sector delivering accessible, high quality services to all!.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
Tawakkalna works closely with 25 government entities to achieve optimal results, including Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Interior. It has closely cooperated with Ministry of Health during the curfew and after, as it owns COVID examination centers and works to manage the health sector in Saudi Arabia. Tawakkalna represents a digital channel for the Ministry to manage its operations and be aware of the health condition for citizens and residents. Tawakkalna also provides the Ministry of Education Madrsati virtual education solution with sign-in credentials for 500,000+ teachers, and 4 million students and parents with online schools. It has worked closely with Ministry of Interior to manage the mobility of individuals and to manage quarantine since Tawakkalna represents the digital channel highlighting the movement permits during the quarantine period.
It as well worked with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to accredit and certify the health status of people with disabilities and the elderly so they can fully benefit from a portfolio of services relevant to their situation and finally collaborated with the private sector and IATA to exchange health data exchange to facilitate travel to/from Saudi Arabia while minimizes bureaucracy.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
Collaborative, whole of government approaches have been strengthened but the existence of key decision-making steering committees, key components and standards have been essential and proven their worth.
This includes working with key legal entities on cyber security and privacy, using cloud, interoperable data standards, national eID and only storing personal data in the app when a user is logged minimized the risk of identity theft and increase trust and privacy. Similarly for service design and web accessibility standards.
Speed of implementation of both Phase 1 and 2 of the app. Particularly challenging was user-testing of new features and functions but an agile and step-wise approach combined with soft launch of functions help alleviate this.
Volume and frequency of use, was a challenge. Initially, technical bugs in code lead to errors and lead to bottle necks in human, technical and financial resources. Working with other government partners helped pool resources to overcome the majority of these challenges. Over time internal process have been established. The rapidly changing user with peaks and valleys were solved with a flexible cloud solution complimenting existing SDAIA and government server capacities as the volume of data exchange and eID verification increased.