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Dubai smartphone apps: tested and rated

Our report card on government apps

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Dubai m-government's apps are meant to make your life easy and many of them are free downloads.
02 Gulf News

Dubai: With the UAE having the highest number of mobile phone subscribers in the world, Dubai Smart Government has created many mobile solutions including mobile apps, mobile payment gateways, a dedicated mobile portal and a mobile SMS gateway.

You can now get many Dubai government services through your smartphones by downloading apps. The apps on offer are diverse in their content and purpose. From social issues, education and health, utility payment, security and justice, tourism, travel environment and infrastructure to business and consumer issues, government apps run the gamut. They are meant to make your life easy and are free to download.

There is a range of things you can do with these government apps — from paying utility bills including mobile, internet, landline and e-vision, to topping up Salik and Nol RTA accounts, clearing RTA fines, enquiring about visa issues (General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai Police), municipality and Rera (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) affairs. And all of this is in a secure environment, with easy registration steps. iPhone users can download the mPay app from the appstore, while Android users can download from the Google Playstore.

But is that all there is to the story? How good are the apps and do they match up to their claims?

Vikram G., a Dubai-based businessman, said it is easy for him to now pay utility bills via Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) and etisalat apps, but many other apps such as Dubai Customs and Dubai Naturalisation and Residency did not always work.

Michael P. said he was frustrated with the Dubai Police app where it was only possible to pay traffic fines, and other features in it like reporting on a crime or sending a video of a crime scene did not work.

Many people we spoke to were appreciative of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) app which they said was easy to download and navigate and wherein people could store their medical profile without a fuss. Similarly, the Knowledge and Human Development (KHDA) app that offers information to parents on schools and universities came in for a lot of praise.

However, despite many apps working well, many utility websites, for instance, are replete with complaints from users about many of them do not working.

Gulf News decided to check out some of the more common government apps for their efficiency and information.

Here is our report card. 

Dewa app

What is it?

You can view and pay your water and electricity bills with a secure payment gateway through e-pay or m-pay. You have to register for m-pay, so we chose e-pay via the Dubai e-government e-pay system. 

Available on: www.dewa.gov.ae on smart phone/ipad:mobile apps@dewa.gov.ae

Download time: 2 minutes. 

Features

The app offers dozens of features, some of which are View & Pay Bill, Pay for a friend, Transaction History, Notice of Disconnection, Customer Online Enrollment, One Window Application, Move In (Activation of Supply), Move Out (Final Bill) and many more.

Merits: A comparative consumption graph of the last two years along with present year graph, giving the consumer an idea of the consumption patterns through the year.

Demerit: It could have a consumption graph for the entire area as it can help the consumer understand how his/her unit’s consumption patterns are in comparison to other households in the same location. However, no such graph was available. 

Applicability

Swift in execution. Bill bar code could be scanned and bill details immediately showed up on screen with exact descriptions — eg, electricity consumption, cooling charges, sewerage, water, housing fees, etc. On the flip side, screen did not show the billed month. Fuel surcharge via tariff calculator and figure on the physical bill did not tally.

The app asks for the contract account number. However, the contract account number on the physical bill showed up as invalid and one had to enter the premise number that is nailed to the door of the house. 

Verdict

Very good. Bill payment time: 10 minutes. Rating: 5/5

 

Immigration Department app 

What is it?

To help clear doubts on your immigration status and guide you to apply for visas. It provides you with the latest news and updates of GDRFA. 

App available on : www.dnrd.ae

Mobile apps@gdrfa. gov.ae

Download time

Registration was unsuccessful despite several attempts over two hours. Registration required certain details such as passport number, visa file number, etc. A call made on the toll-free DNRD number also did not elicit a positive response. The customer service person informed us that the application was working but could not help as he said he did not have a smartphone or an iPad to test the veracity of the statement.

Despite filling in all the details, the message that flashed on the screen was: These details do not match the GDRFA files. This was tried with two different file numbers and passport details. However, it did not work. A provision to write to the GM which was one of the elements offered on the screen menu was used. A formal email complaint was registered and the GDRFA sent an email reply saying they were looking into the matter. But no solutions were provided. 

Features

Transaction Enquiry: Inquire about Visa/Residence applications.

Branches: Find the nearest GDRFA branch to you.

Contact GM and Report a concern: Complaints.

Media library: to help you research visa issues.

The app did not work so there was no way of knowing whether it delivered what it promised. 

Applicability

Difficult to gauge as it did not work. 

Verdict

Failed to register or begin any transaction. Rating: 0/5

 

KHDA app 

What is it?

It aids parents in the UAE to pick schools for their children. They can view ratings, tuition fees and curricula of different schools and universities nationwide. 

Download time

30 seconds-1 minute

Type in the acronym KHDA in the search bar and it pops up as the first option to download. 

Features

Choice of English or Arabic, ‘Schools’ and ‘University’, and right down to a list of categories that narrow down options according to user’s needs. Users can find a school by:

1. School Overall Performance.

2. School Name.

3. Curriculum.

4. Location.

5. Annual Fee.

Within these categories are several other categories which are easy to find and extremely helpful with information.

Applicability

Offers users contacts details for the different schools and an inspection report written by the KHDA at the click of a button. A location map is also provided that opens up instantly. 

Verdict

Excellent app with clear, well-presented information for parents. Rating: 5/5

 

Dubai Calendar

What is it?

Helps people keep track of various events in Dubai through the year. Upcoming concerts, festivals, talent shows, conferences and much more.

Download time: A few seconds.  

Features

1. Events (which is the page displaying the upcoming events of the month chosen by the user).

2. Search (a search bar for users to type in the name of an upcoming event they are interested in).

3. Near By (for the user to search for events taking place in a nearby location. For this the “Location Services” must be turned on in order for the app to determine which events are taking place nearby based on the user’s location.

4. Favourites (a tab that contains all upcoming events that the user added to the favourites list being potentially interested in attending the event)

5. Contact (a tab that has three buttons).

a. “Contact us” for users to contact Dubai Calendar for any inquiries

b. “Register an Event” for any company or event planner to register an event that the public can attend.

c. “Visit Website” for the app to navigate to the Dubai Calendar web page. 

Applicability

Delivers prompt results. The user has the choice to share the event on social media, add it to their favourites, view it on the map, add it to their calendar and visit the main website of the event. Navigation from one page/event to another is quick. Users can book tickets from home.

Verdict

Excellent app with easy-to-access information. Rating: 5/5

 

Dubai Customs 

Operating platform: Android 4.3 on Samsung S3. 

Download time: The Dubai Customs app can be easily downloaded, however one must capture 6 falcons in order to proceed to the main page of the app. It seems as though the sixth falcon is always missing since one can only capture 5 falcons every time which, in turn, does not allow the user to reach the home page of the app. 

Definitely Dubai 

What is it?

The official app of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). It lists key events taking place in Dubai. Available in Arabic and English, the events appear in chronological order. Everything from business conferences to comedy shows are included in the “official calendar” line up. There is also a preface on Dubai, which includes basic information that tourists will find handy. 

Operating platform: Android 4.3 on Samsung S3.

Download time? About 40 seconds, depending on your mobile internet connection speed. 

Features

Offers well-organised event listing, with pictures and quick navigation options for search, contact information, pictures and location maps. You can search by category and key words. An introduction to each event is also included. 5/5 points. 

Applicability

App is accurate and updated at all times. Provides external links related to events, and allows you to add them to your calendar or share with friends using social media and email. 

Verdict

Definitely worth downloading; works without glitches and is a reliable tool. Rating: 5/5

 

Du customers

What is it?

General-purpose app for customers of UAE telecom Du. Lists latest deals on smartphones, available plans and data bundles, store locations and contact information, account details and a customer support mini-section to report problems, ask additional information, or sign up to services. Some links take you to Du’s website, which opens within the app itself. Fonts are too small to read, but there is a zoom option available. 

Operating platform: Android 4.3 on Samsung S3.

Download time: About 20 seconds. 

Features

App is divided into 5 sections: updates, products, account, contact, and service locators. There is a notifications button that updates announcements or offers. Highlights appear on the top of the home screen of the app, which can be swiped left or right to browse. A settings button allows you to choose the language, open a tutorial and grant access to location services. The links to the website take longer to load. The eShop sections allows customers to purchase products through the site. 

Applicability

All features tested seem to perform well. 

Verdict

If you’re thinking about downloading it, go ahead and du it. Rating: 4/5

 

DEDDubai 

What is it?

Introduced by the Department of Economic Development in Dubai, it allows a search for businesses in the emirate, view their trade licence and read a brief profile. Lets users search for companies by licence number, trade name or business activity. Mainly geared towards investors who want to complete trade licence formalities. The corporate section requires users to log into an account with MYID or DED. Business users can apply or renew licences, update information and view any fines. Can also view status of requests or transactions. 4/5 

Operating platform: Android 4.3 on Samsung S3.

Download time: About 55 seconds depending on the mobile internet connection. 4/5 

Features

The app is divided into two broad sections – Public Services inquiry and eServices Transaction. The public section is for general users who want to search and view information on licensed businesses in Dubai, including their contact information and location (on Google Maps). The corporate section is for registered account holders, who can avail a variety of mobile services through the app. There is also a rotating top banner on the home screen that provides information on some government awards and departments. 

Applicability

The Public Services section, which was tested, performed well. However, the map and contact details take relatively long to load. Also, the “news” display had no regular updates. 

Verdict

Easy way to view licence details and contact information of businesses, or find out what companies are categorised under various trade divisions. However, there are customisable features and some searches take a relatively long while to load. Total score: 4/5

 

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) 

What is it?

It offers information on health facilities, help on health issues, health packages and their availability at various clinics and cost for Dubai residents. 

Operating platform: Apple ipad

Download time: Less than 60 seconds. (5 points) 

Features

Offers a host of features. A good one is My Records, where you can write and save your health particulars such as Blood Pressure reading, Blood Glucose level, Weight, Height and BMI. This is helpful as many people do not keep track of these important readings and can immediately check with the family physician if the readings are not normal or high.

If you do not know how to calculate your Body Mass Index, there is a useful calculator attached.

Parents can keep track of their child’s vaccination schedule. There is a form where parents can fill in the child’s details such as date of birth and you will get the required schedule.

The app helps you search for a doctor or specialist from the DHA database. You can also access information on visiting doctors with certain specialities and you can set up an appointment yourself.

There is a section called Health Packages: For example, it gives you the best health package if you are a woman, that offers screening for the common risk factors. It even gives you the cost (Dh900) and where (Al Twar Centre). 

Applicability

Features are very easy and user-friendly.

Verdict

It has merged technology and health extremely well. Rating: 5/5

 

Ministry of Health (MoH) app

Operating platform: Apple iPad.

What is it?

An app that offers health card services.

Download time: Less than 60 seconds.

Features

You can make an emergency call, do online e-transactions without having to go to a typing centre. There is a Health Fitness Module and a module for Other Services, but once you click on it, a message comes up that says, “Warning, module will be available in next version”. But it does not say when the next version is available.

There are services for PRO/Accountants of companies to inquire about staff health cards.

Individuals can log in, but for some reason I could not type my family name and the form switched back to Arabic.

Applicability

User-unfriendly. Hard to navigate. 

Verdict

Could not gauge how it works for individuals. Rating: 2/5

 

Dubai Police 

Operating platform: Apple ipad 

What is it?

Information on traffic fines and payment, plus community services. 

Download time: Not easy to download on an ipad. The Apple store first took us to paid apps for paying traffic fines or Salik fines. These apps cost between Dh3.30 (0.90 cents) to Dh7.16 ($1.95). We had to go to Google to look for the Dubai Police app and tap on it, and then it came up on the Apple store for download. Android users say it is faster download. 

Features

Offers Traffic Services; Security Services and Community Services. You can also apply for a Good Conduct certificate. You can search for nearby police stations. It allows you to upload a picture or a video to a police server of an accident or a crime being committed. It also gives an update on road and traffic conditions so you can check before leaving home. Only the Traffic Services module worked on the ipad (maybe I needed a newer version such as the ipad Air. It also does not work on a Samsung Tab).

We filled in the car details and immediately found out that we had no fines to pay. Android phone users have praised this app and there seem to be 50,000 downloads on smartphones. 

Applicability

There are glitches in the ipad version. This is more of a smartphone download app. (Police updates on traffic, incidentally, are also available on Twitter social media now). 

Verdict

Not too efficient on an ipad. Rating: 1/5

 

Dubai Municipality

What is it:

The app provides users with smart services, government notifications, latest updates, and information about projects and infrastructure in the city. 

Download time:

Very fast to download on iPhone - could not find it on tablet. 

Features

There are six main features in the app:

Public services; notify Dubai Municipality (about any complaints or violations to do with public health and safety, planning and building, public market, environment, projects and infrastructure, coasts and green areas, among others); Plot finder (information about usage of lands in Dubai, zoning regulations and location on the map); Active contractors and consultants companies (for a variety of services including water and sewage services, engineering services, and air conditioning maintenance); service catalogue (available services for individual, businesses, and government-provided) and Transactions site: this service provides the status of the latest transactions submitted by the public users from the Dubai Municipality portal. The user can make searches using the transaction number or he can view the latest transaction with DM. 

Applicability

Once a user creates a profile with their user ID and password, they can access and use all the services easily as well as send requests and notifications. It is also easy to change the language of the app to Arabic. 

Verdict

User-friendly and with good information. Provides a step-by-step explanation of each feature and how to use it. Rating: 4.5/5

 

Dubai Islamic Affairs - Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department of the Government of Dubai

What is it?

The app provides users with information on Islamic affairs, nearest mosques, religious centres and prayer timings. 

Download time: Seconds. Very fast. (Only Arabic version available). The app was easy to find on the app store on an iphone- not available on a tablet app store 

Features

Finds nearest mosque; Dubai prayer timings; 3. Fatwa request- (users can send any religious questions and requests); Family consultation request

Provides users with a list of Dubai charity Associations, Islamic centres and Holy Quran memorising centres Rating: 4.5

Applicability

All options and features are clearly presented, along with relevant mosque locations, charity centres, phone numbers, prayer timings, and the latest news and updates in the Islamic Affairs Department. Users can also send requests and questions to mosque scholars and shaikhs and receive feedback on the app. 

Verdict

Extremely user-friendly. But as it is only available in Arabic, non-Arab Muslims might not be able to use it. An English version of the app will be launched soon. Rating: 4/5

Infographic

Dubai m-government's apps
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Infographic

Dubai m-government's apps

Dubai m-government's apps

Latest Comment

Yes it works perfectly, I manage my utility, bank account, parking,traffic and mobile bills.etc all through mobile apps.

Ahmad

9 March 2014 13:19jump to comments
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