x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

SOS app will locate Emiratis abroad in an emergency

The new feature is to be added to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) existing iPhone and Android app to help find Emiratis who may have gotten lost, caught up in social unrest or are in need of urgent medical assistance while abroad.

DUBAI// An SOS alert system for Emiratis that can pinpoint their exact location in foreign countries in an emergency using their smartphone is to be released in the next few weeks.

The new feature is to be added to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ existing iPhone and Android app to help find Emiratis who may have got lost, caught up in social unrest or who are in need of urgent medical assistance while abroad.

Currently, the ministry’s app provides a range of services, including security updates on countries, visa requirements, map locations and contact details for UAE embassies and missions.

Once implemented, the new system, which should be available in a month, will allow users to alert embassy officials in any country if they need help using GPS technology to send staff and aid services to their location.

“We have had issues in the past where nationals have become lost or needed help but it has been difficult to locate them,” said Dr Saeed Al Dhaheri, adviser for information systems to the ministry.

“But with this technology they will be able to tell us where they are by simply pressing a button in the app and we can send help much faster.”

The feature is undergoing testing and development by students at the Higher Colleges of Technology across the country.

“The app in general has proved very popular with UAE nationals since it was launched in 2011,” said Dr Al Dhaheri, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Gitex Technology Week being held at the World Trade Centre in Dubai.

So far the current version of the app has been downloaded 26,000 times.

As well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Dubai’s Islamic Affairs and Charitable Affairs Department announced plans for its own app designed to make it easier for people to donate to charity.

“We have 22 charities in Dubai and each of them has its own appeals and that can be confusing for people,” said Hamad Al Sayegh, a accountant with the department.

The Emirates Charity app will bring together all the different organisations into one easily manageable format.

“What this app will let users do is quickly identify where they want to donate and which charities they want to help.”

Users will be able to select from a range of categories, from giving money to aid people in their annual hajj pilgrimage, to helping needy families and orphans.

“The app will also allow people to check and make sure the money is going to where it is supposed to,” said Mr Al Sayegh.

“So for example, if someone says they need Dh10,000 in donations for a project and then reach that target but then continue to ask other people for more money, we will be able to check that.”

An Arabic version of the app is on show at Gitex but the final version, which will also be in English, is expected to be released in June next year for the iPhone and Android smartphones.

Gitex Technology Week ends on Thursday.

nhanif@thenational.ae