Ithra launches “Sync,” a digital well-being program
Innovative program looks to tackle the impact of technology use on people’s lives with help from international institutions and experts.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is launching a new flagship digital well-being program to promote the balanced use of technology to improve users’ mental and physical condition and provide an international leadership vision for the new post-pandemic digital world.
Ithra will hold a global digital well-being summit on Dec. 7, with international industry partners as well as leading authorities on the subject.
‘Sync’ looks to empower through technology
The new program, Sync, includes a digital platform and a variety of programs and seminars as part of the efforts that Ithra continuously makes to empower and accelerate creativity through using modern technology. The Center has previously launched its Creative Solutions program, which strives to be a pioneer in positive interaction with technology to provide a creative and innovative process where technology and applications today play a positive role in people’s lives.
Technology and applications play an important role in the fields of art, culture, economics, and society, thereby contributing to our quality of life. In response, Ithra has established Sync to help raise awareness on how to use technology in a balanced and purposeful way, benefitting from the world of the internet while at the same time reducing the damage it causes such as disrupted sleep.
Research, carried out for Ithra by ASDA’A tells us that the overuse of technology has become a concern both at the regional and international level. According to research:
- 40% of Gen Z respondents – people born between 1995 and 2012 – have misled their friends and family about their internet usage
- People in South Asia, Middle East, and Gen Z are most likely spend more time online than they actually want to
- Online harassment and bullying affect about 34% of the public in the Middle East and North Africa
- Some people use social media without interacting or commenting, which can lead to a feeling of loneliness.
- Simply getting a social media notification on our phone can lead to “reward anticipation” and a dopamine hit, and another hit if the message is pleasant (eventually, the anticipation of a reward is enough).
The launch includes a panel discussion moderated by cultural advisor Tariq Khawaji, with Mohammed Al Hajji, director of the Behavioral Insights Unit at the Saudi Ministry of Health KSA, and Heyla Selim, professor of social psychology at King Saud University, also participating.
Finding a healthy path with technology
Sync director Abdullah Al-Rashid said that although technology plays a vital role in society, we have reached an inflection point. “To safeguard user welfare today and in the future, we must understand the issues.
Our research proves that over-reliance on the internet and social media is damaging well-being for more than half of humanity. As an organization dedicated to making a tangible and positive impact on human development, Ithra is committed to being part of the solution.
“The challenge for all of us is learning to harness the technology and make it work for us. It is tremendously useful to have access to libraries of books and insightful talks through small portable devices,” he said. “But we risk being so tied to screens and devices that we put our health in danger and risk missing the world go by. Digital technology is a good servant, but it is a hard master.”
That being said, Al-Rashid added, there are no simple or easy answers.
“We saw the usefulness of digital tools to provide education, information and culture during the pandemic lockdown. But there is something clearly unhealthy about the damaging impact of cyber-bullying and the relentless striving for ‘likes’ on people’s mental well-being,” he said.
For more information on Ithra and its programs, visit www.ithra.com.