DUBAI // An iPhone application that gives people access to health services has been launched by the Ministry of Health.
A component of the ministry's "mobile government" initiative, the free app was introduced at the Gitex conference yesterday.
"It's to make it easier for people to communicate with the ministry and get information," said Dr Hanif Hassan Ali al Qassim, the health minister. "If I'm enquiring about the nearest hospital or clinic, I can check on this here."
As well as offering a direct way to call an ambulance or for medical advice, the health ministry app uses GPS to direct users to the nearest hospital or health centre. Experts believe that key services such as paying bills, getting legal advice or even monitoring a child's test results could be conducted through mobile techology once the "m-government" concept takes hold.
"Everything is going mobile and mobiles are getting much smarter," said Khalid Lootah, the health ministry's executive director of institutional and support services. "It's important that we keep track of these developments."
Mr Lootah said that additional services would be included at a later date and that the platform could be expanded to include other smartphones.
The focus on developing apps for iPhones is primarily due to the ease of use of the software, said Abdulla Hashim, the senior vice-president of business solutions at Etisalat, the telecommunications provider behind the health ministry app.
"Everyone is developing applications for iPhones," said Mr Hashim. "We are working with several departments. The platform is easy to work with and iPhones are very popular."
The Abu Dhabi Justice Department has already released an app for the iPhone and iPad tablet computer that allows downloads of the UAE criminal code and information on laws and cases.
Staying abreast of the latest developments was essential to future services, said Rashid Obaid al Dhaheri, the director of the department's information technology bureau. "This is just the beginning of where we are going with mobile government," he said.