INNOVATION, AGILITY, AND TRUST

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | IT: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION | INTERVIEW

The building blocks of gaining the public's trust are not as difficult as one of our missions has been to make sure everyone in Saudi Arabia has access to primary healthcare.

Ayman Abdullah Alfallaj
BIOGRAPHY
Ayman Abdullah Alfallaj took over as CEO of Thiqah in 2017 and has been a key contributor to a variety of initiatives the organization has launched to boost productivity and efficiency amongst public entities. He combines a strong entrepreneurial track record in various successful start-ups with extensive experience in investment banking across three continents. He remains active in the start-up scene and is a board member of various reputable institutions. Alfallaj holds a master’s in finance from UCD Michael Smurfit Business School.

What model are you using to bring efficiency to government entities?

Thiqah brings innovation, agility, and trust, which helps us move together with governmental entities to ensure we have one simple goal. Our relationship with those entities relies on one aspect, success. Their success is ours, and vice versa. Therefore, we make sure that when we bring a product to Saudi society, we bring the best we can. As with any other company, sometimes we need to choose where to go next. We build things from scratch, and sometimes we take advantage of current systems up and running in the market. When we choose the second option, we usually choose the best in the market. With the Ministry of Health, one of our missions has been to make sure everyone in Saudi Arabia has access to primary healthcare. Traditionally, this has required physical locations, such as clinics, and since Saudi Arabia is a large country, clinics need to be everywhere. The Ministry thought of having an alternative with the purpose of providing a better service to the people. Telemedicine is booming in the market, but the actual global adoption rate is still low. Saudi has a large young population, and reports tell us that technology usage has a 90% penetration rate in Saudi. That is why we thought to take advantage of telemedicine services to provide primary healthcare; however, instead of us utilizing the opportunity on our own, we prefer to go back to our core desire and include the private sector and SMEs in every possible opportunity. We looked for platforms that were already built and that deliver the same purpose of telemedicine within Saudi Arabia and found an SME that fit our approach and direction, one with whose founder we could collaborate. In order for us to centralize services, we planned on having one telemedicine helping each and every person by using doctors online through mobile apps to reach out to patients, and vice versa. However, this plan negatively impacted the clinics as opposed to providing them with better services. We did not solve the issue because doctors were still needed to efficiently respond to the patients on the app. Then we came up with an artificial intelligence (AI) option so that patients can provide their medical histories and current symptoms to receive a preliminary report that will help the doctors more quickly identify what is ailing them.

How is your e-commerce application developing in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce?

This application is called Maroof, and it is a platform on which all e-commerce vendors register and are rated by consumers, guaranteeing a certain level of authentication and liability. People see the products through Maroof and rate what they have received. Those comments and rates are accessible to all on the platform. Another aspect is that Thiqah will not build an e-commerce platform. As a state-owned company, our mission is not to compete with the private sector, but to enable it and cooperate with SMEs. This means that what we did with Maroof was build the infrastructure. We asked the private sector to join us and take advantage of all the data we had, after which they can sell through their platforms. We enabled them to grow faster and further without us intervening in the market.

How else are you involving the private sector in Vision 2030?

We have a lot of ideas and solutions, one of which is a program called Sharakah, which means partnership. We have built amazing platforms to link the public and private sectors, and since we have accessibility to them, we have leveraged our privilege with the government and commercialized upon these ideas. Yet, instead of Thiqah commercializing every aspect, we allow the private sector to take the credit. We then share that data with the private sector so that anyone can build a platform or application to help the Saudi people.