Qatar’s mobile revolution

Qatar Happening, October 2014. Original article (p52-53).

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 14.13.59Qatar’s mobile revolution
With a smartphone in almost every pocket, the number of apps in Qatar is booming. Here are some of the most popular apps right now for moving around, getting informed, and staying connected.

Remember way back when the internet was new, how people worried that technology would isolate us from each other? Why go and meet your friends if you could talk to them via instant messenger? Why go to the shops when you can buy things online?

Fast forward to the present day and what’s happened is the opposite: the internet is adding to life, not taking away from it. Especially now that the internet comes with us in our pockets, this digital layer on top daily life is proving very handy whenever we want to find information, or reach out to other people.

Just look at some of the most popular mobile apps in Qatar lately – they’re all a means for interaction – socially or with businesses. San Francisco-based Uber has proved a very welcome addition to Doha’s transport scene, joining Dubai-based Careem in enabling locals to book taxis from their phones. Those preferring Karwa should soon be able to use the QCab app to do the same.

Other popular apps in Qatar are often similarly aimed at improving the experience of moving around town. The Doha Airport app tracks arrivals and departures for all airlines, while iTraffic provides routes from A to B, aided by real-time information about traffic conditions.

Especially for newcomers in the country, these kinds of apps can be very helpful to find their way around, both in town and in bureaucracy. The Qatari government has also released a range of apps aiming to help with administrative tasks, ranging from pest control to help with visa processes.

There are plenty of apps catering to leisure, dining and entertainment too; one of these is The Entertainer, which also provides discount vouchers. Hellofood is a handy food delivery app, while Al Cinema is a popular choice for finding local film listings. The Katara app, and On Qatar, are good for finding cultural attractions.

A growing entrepreneur scene
An exciting newcomer to the Qatar app scene is Evently, a listings app run by four Qatar locals: Mufeed Ahmed, Nasser Al Naama, Aisha Al Naama, and Fawaz Mohamed. As the name suggests, Evently provides information on upcoming events, including exhibitions, concerts, sports and conferences. Interestingly, there’s also an integrated ticket service, where users can book paperless tickets and be billed through their mobile services provider.

Evently is a result of the emerging technology entrepreneur scene in Qatar. The first inspiration for the business started in 2011, when the founders entered an ideas competition for young people across the MENA region. This eventually led to an invitation to the Digital Incubation Center in West Bay, after which they quickly launched Evently for Android, BlackBerry and iOS.

Right now, the Qatar Business Incubation Center is promoting the Arab Mobile App Challenge, which is still accepting submissions until 15th October. In order to qualify, at least one team member must be a citizen of a Pan-Arab country. This competition funnels winners into an accelerator programme, where developers can get mentoring and support for their ideas.

After all, the market for new apps is growing: Qatar has the highest penetration of smartphones in the Arab region. According to research from Analysys Mason, around 35 % of all mobile phones in Qatar were internet-enabled in 2013, a number likely to rise to nearly 60% in 2018.

On top of this, people in Qatar spend about 23 hours a week accessing the internet on their mobile phones, according to a 2013 study from Northwestern University in Qatar. Over 90% said they rely on the internet for their news, although Twitter users may want to consider the TweetCred app, which scores each Twitter account for credibility. So next time Twitter reports breaking news, this plug-in makes for a quick and easy way to figure out which source on a feed is most likely to have genuine information.

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Published by Jessica Furseth

Journalist; Londoner.