KUWAIT: HH the Prime Minister inspects ‘Shlonik’ Operations Center in the presence of ministers and Bader Al-Kharafi

KUWAIT: By all measures, 2020 has been an exceptional year, having presented numerous health, economic, and social challenges to the entire world. With the year closing, Zain has found itself to have reflected a spirit of national unity and commitment in the social sustainability values it has always adopted year after another. The company was one of the very first national organizations that supported the country’s efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic since the first few days of the crisis back in March of last year.

Zain has showcased the spirit of responsibility as a leading national company by making its human and tech resources available to shoulder the public sector and maintain the nation’s wellbeing. The company also launched numerous social awareness campaigns aimed at elevating the health and safety of the community. Not only that, but Zain was also keen on continuing its support of social, educational, and cultural initiatives – which it has always been a top supporter of – in a virtual format this time to adhere to official health measures and guidelines to keep everyone involved safe.

Zain’s tireless efforts have extended throughout the year, where it has launched its own social initiatives, supported existing educational, academic, and environmental programs, in addition to handling the crisis, all under its corporate sustainability and social responsibility strategy. Being one of the biggest private sector leaders in the country, Zain was keen on reflecting its role by supporting the public sector, especially during crises which show the nation’s true soul.

In the following report, Zain showcases some of its most notable efforts and sustainable initiatives that extended throughout the year 2020, especially those that came as a contribution to protect the community from the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic early in the year:

Al-Roudhan with ZGI entrepreneurs at a previous event

Collaborating with MOH
After the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced a number of emergency measures in March 2020 to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Zain immediately announced its collaboration with the ministry to spread health awareness and contribute to all its efforts in combatting the pandemic.
As part of this collaboration, Zain offered its customers free calls to any of MOH’s three hotlines, enabling them to inquire about any health or medical information related to COVID-19 directly from the ministry’s expert team to ensure they receive correct information from official and certified sources.

Zain also provided MOH with free bulk SMS messages to send medical awareness content to the community during this period. In addition, the company posted many awareness messages in collaboration with the ministry’s team on its official social media channels, and broadcasted official MOH awareness videos on COVID-19 in seven different languages.

Free Internet and calls
At the end of March, Zain also offered its customers 5 GBs of daily Internet caps and free local voice calls for a period of one month as part of its commitment towards its customers during the exceptional circumstances at the start of the pandemic. This initiative came as a response to the emergency meeting that Zain was present at along with the related entities and the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA). Through this initiative, Zain tried to offer a contribution to support customers during these times that affected all life aspects, both personal and professional.

Offering meals
As a contribution to support the enormous efforts exerted by the authorities at the start of the pandemic, Zain offered over 40,000 meals in collaboration with the Kuwait Food Bank, where a large number of the meals was distributed during the week dedicated by the Ministry of Health at Kuwait International Fairgrounds in Mishref to conduct tests for residents who recently entered the country. The meals were a contribution by the company to ease the long waiting times while in line. Many meals were also distributed at Kuwait International Airport’s gates dedicated for residents who were returning back to their countries because of the crisis.

The company also offered many smartphone charging stations at Kuwait International Airport to serve Kuwaiti citizens who were returning home as part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ evacuation plan to bring Kuwaitis back home from all over the world during the pandemic. This contribution aimed at facilitating communication between returning Kuwaitis and their families as soon as they arrive to Kuwait. Zain was also continuously distributing a large number of meals to them in collaboration with the Kuwait Food Bank and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Supporting business customers and SMEs
During early April 2020, Zain collaborated with the Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC), a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), to supply the quarantine center project at Al-Zour area – that was executed by KIPIC – with a telecommunications and networking digital infrastructure. The collaboration came to support the country’s tremendous efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Kuwait.

Furthermore, as part of its commitment to make its tech capabilities available to business customers during the pandemic, Zain offered a wide range of digital and cloud solutions to corporate customers, allowing them to increase operational efficiency and empower remote working during the crisis. Some of the most notable services included thermal camera solutions, distance learning services, Zain Health digital platform, and much more.

Zain also provided business customers with Cisco Webex video conferencing tools for three months free to support them to engage in digital transformation and work remotely during the pandemic. The company also provided SME customers with an opportunity to postpone bill payments for three months without service discontinuity to support them during the economic crisis that came as a result of the pandemic.

Shlonik app
During April 2020, specifically during the beginning of the country’s evacuation plan to bring thousands of Kuwaiti citizens back home at the beginning of the pandemic, Zain developed ‘Shlonik’ app for smartphones in joint collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Central Agency for Information Technology (CAIT). The app’s development and launch came to support the enormous efforts exerted by the authorities to tackle the pandemic.

Shlonik (which translates to ‘how are you’ in the Kuwaiti dialect), was designed by Zain’s team with world-class standards under direct and continuous supervision from the Ministry of Health’s team. The app utilizes the latest tech solutions to monitor the compliance of citizens who return to Kuwait from abroad in home quarantine instructions. The app is also an essential tool to pair with the smart wrist bracelet that was distributed at Kuwait International Airport to anyone who underwent home quarantine.

As of today, ‘Shlonik’ was downloaded over 623,000 times, where the Ministry of Health’s teams monitored over 390,000 home-quarantined users via the app. Over 114,000 COVID-positive cases were recorded via the app, where they were successfully prevented from coming into contact with others. In addition, the app is currently monitoring over 42,000 active users who are undergoing home quarantine.

Education programs and supporting youth
Throughout the year 2020, Zain supported numerous education and training programs that aimed at enriching the local education and youth sector, most of which came in a virtual format to adhere to health measures posed by the pandemic. The company awarded the two winning teams of the “Most Innovative Product/Service” category for university and high school students at the 14th annual INJAZ Company Program Competition. The event was held online by INJAZ Kuwait with the participation of over 50 students from across Kuwait’s high schools and universities.

Zain also participated in recognizing the winners of the KON Social Entrepreneurship Program during the virtual ceremony held online. The company’s participation came as part of its Gold sponsorship of the program for the third year running, which in turn came as part of its Strategic Partnership with LOYAC that continued last year for over 16 consecutive years.

In addition, Zain was the main partner of the Kuwait Virtual Graduation 2020, a unique online event that was streamed online and via Kuwait TV to celebrate the graduation of over 40,000 students from the class of 2020, including high school, university, and vocational college graduates from both the public and private sectors. The virtual event came under the patronage of HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.

As part of its keenness to train Arab youth on essential digital skills, Zain partnered with Maharat Min Google, a virtual initiative launched by Google in collaboration with INJAZ. 50 Zain employees have taken part in the program to train young people on a variety of the most essential digital skills demanded by jobs in the Arab world today.

Zain also sponsored a virtual lecture hosted by Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) in partnership with Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre (ASCC). The event, held on Instagram Live, featured Aisha Bowe, a former engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

Ending violence against women and supporting environmental efforts
Towards the end of 2020, Zain supported the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE Campaign). The initiative called for global action to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations to address violence against women and girls around the world.

Zain’s contribution to this global campaign came as a continuation of its collaboration with the United Nations’ various entities, including the UN Women Regional Office for Arab States. This joint effort reflected Zain’s commitment to support initiatives and programs that shed light on the importance of protecting and empowering women, as well as those that enrich gender equality and inclusion within communities and workplaces.

Zain also took part in Alnowair’s ‘Let’s Do it Kuwait’ campaign, which coincided with World Cleanup Day on 19 September with the participation of nearly 5000 volunteers. The event, considered the biggest national cleanup campaign in the history of Kuwait, witnessed the presence of Zain Kuwait CEO Eaman Al-Roudhan, along with many public and private sector officials, diplomats, and representatives of global organizations. The event also featured the Kuwait Army, Ministry of Health, Ministry of State for Municipal Affairs, and the Environment Public Authority.

Zain’s participation in this national campaign came as part of its extended partnership with Alnowair, the non-profit initiative that aims at bringing positive, social behavioral change in Kuwait. The partnership fell under Zain’s Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility strategy, through which the company is keen on supporting such innovative initiatives that contribute to reflecting a positive image of the Kuwaiti society.

Virtual Zain Great Idea accelerator program
At the end of 2020, Zain announced the launch of the sixth edition of its Zain Great Idea (ZGI) tech startup accelerator program, which comes in an all-virtual format to adhere to the health guidelines posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program comes in joint collaboration with Brilliant Lab, a startup Accelerator Service from Kuwait, and Mind the Bridge, a global organization based in Silicon Valley that bridges the world through entrepreneurship education for startups, enterprises, and investors to succeed in global markets.

ZGI offers a refreshed opportunity for local talents and Kuwait’s entrepreneurial community, as it has been one of the most successful initiatives Zain presented to the Kuwaiti market as part of its comprehensive innovation and entrepreneurship strategy. Throughout five successful editions, ZGI empowered, trained, and invested in hundreds of creative and driven Kuwaiti youth, of which many now own thriving and active Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to this day in local and regional markets.

The pandemic did not pose a barrier that prevented Zain from renewing its commitment to Kuwait’s entrepreneurial community. On the contrary, Zain saw it as a challenge to reintroduce the program more exceptionally than ever, as the company is the first to believe in technology’s excellence as an effective and high-efficient tool to develop skills and train talents. Eligible applicants will participate in the virtual Bootcamp phase. Throughout four weeks, they will learn the essentials of accelerating their tech startups via workshops, training sessions, and panel discussions featured by world-class facilitators and trainers from top international institutions, including IE Business School, MIT, Stanford, and more.

If the startup passes the judging panel, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to benefit from Zain’s leading experiences in areas that are essential to any startup, including marketing, advertising, customer care, public relations, digital partnerships, business/consultancy/legal services, and much more. At the end of the program, all finalists will be hosted at a virtual Zain Demo Day event, through which they will present and pitch their final startups to investors, business partners, and others, giving them the opportunity to transform their ideas and startups into a profitable business.