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Apps to improve municipal services
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 08 - 2015


Layan Damanhouri
Saudi Gazette


JEDDAH — In today's age of smart technology, and what has come to be known as e-governance, citizens can now communicate directly with their municipalities using smart apps.
Jeddah municipality offers residents a chance to file complaints on issues about public services – such as water leaks, public health violations, broken street lights, road services, park facilities — directly via an app.
Deputy Mayor of IT, Arwa Al-Aama, spoke to Saudi Gazette about how such e-services are becoming more commonplace.
“Both public and private sectors are using them in all kinds of services,” Al-Aama said. “The general trend is heading in that direction.”
The municipality currently has two apps, one for pothole complaints and the second for complaints about services.
“At the municipality, we receive more complaints from the apps than calls on the hotline,” Al-Aama said. “People, in general, prefer using apps.
The younger generation, the majority of the Saudi population, is pro-apps.” As a social responsibility initiative, the Jeddah municipality, in collaboration with the King Abdulaziz University's computing faculty, recently launched Jeddah Challenge, a competition for Saudi residents to design a smart app that serves the city.
The competition is part of a drive toward smart cities that use digital technology to enhance the quality of urban services and improve interaction between citizens and government.
Being a smart city means finding the most cost-effective and ecofriendly solutions for everyday living.
The computing faculty's vice dean, Iyad Katib, said: “The competition offers residents a chance to participate in developing and improving their city.”
“Many people complain about the quality of services,” Katib said. “This is their chance to participate and play an active role.”
Municipal governments around the world are using apps to provide many services, such as e-government, smart living, smart communication, environment, and security.
While a committee made up of KAU professors will judge Jeddah Challenge applicants, 40 percent of the selection process will be based on audience votes for the best finalists at the award ceremony.
“The competition aims to benefit all cities of the Kingdom, actually, since other municipalities can adopt the winning model later on,” Katib said.
He suggested developers, either as individuals or part of a team, look for a useful app that is efficient and suitably designed for people to apply on their android or iOS devices.
The top five finalists will each receive cash prizes, with first place receiving SR30,000 and will have their model adopted as an official government app.
Many have already started tweeting and following the competition on social media under the name JeddahChallenge.


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