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Interviews

Rising to the Challenge

by BTM

Mon, 29 November 2021

The BeAware app Bahrain Dr. Zakareya Ahmed AlKhajah

The BeAware app has been an indispensable tool in supporting Bahrain’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Bahrain This Month met with the Deputy CE, Electronic Transformation of the Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA), Dr. Zakareya Ahmed AlKhajah to shed light on the application’s success.

COVID-19 has proved to be one of the most challenging pandemics that the world has had to face to date.  As the public health emergency of international concern changed life as we know it, countries around the world put their best foot forward to find a solution that would save lives, instill a feeling of safety among citizens and restore a sense of normality.

Bahrain joined the international community’s response to mitigate COVID-19 with the adoption of the “Trace, Test, Treat” strategy, which notably attained worldwide recognition from the World Health Organisation (WHO). 
To unify and strengthen Bahrain’s response to the global pandemic, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, directed the formation of a National Medical Taskforce for Combatting the Coronavirus (COVID-19). In line with HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister’s directives to deploy modern technologies to further the Kingdom’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA), in cooperation with the National Medical Taskforce introduced the BeAware Bahrain application.

The Start of the Journey
“During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bahrain capitalised on its strong ICT infrastructure to build the BeAware app which was developed to compliment national COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The application centralised the latest health recommendations and international developments in one user-friendly interface, allowing users to stay up-to-date with real time COVID-19 developments,” says Deputy CE, Electronic Transformation of the Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA), Dr. Zakareya Ahmed AlKhajah.

Due to the importance of acting swiftly to tackle the emergent threat, the iGA was keen on releasing the application as quickly as possible, with the launch of the beta version of the BeAware mobile application on March 20, 2020. “Soon after, the official version of the application was launched on March 31, 2020 and has since been downloaded over three million times,” states Dr. Alkhajah.

Advanced Features & eServices
Seven employees were involved in the creation and maintenance of the application, which has undoubtedly been a crucial element in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s efforts to quell the spread of COVID-19 through its comprehensive functionality. The BeAware application utilises advanced technologies to provide several features and eServices. “The application makes use of Artificial Intelligence technologies to alert users in the event that they approach an active or suspected COVID-19 case,” explains Dr. Alkhajah. 

It also utilises location data to alert individuals in the event that they approach a location an active case has visited. This is in addition to publishing health recommendations and highlighting global COVID-19 developments.

“Furthermore, the BeAware Bahrain application allows users to schedule COVID-19 test appointments, access test results, and allows travellers to sign a travel deceleration form prior to departure and upon arrival, amongst 20 other services provided through the app which is available in six different languages for both iOS and Android users,” says Dr. Alkhajah.

Aside from the services, the app has proved to be instrumental in furthering public awareness on COVID-19 as it publishes trustworthy and accurate information that invalidates false information on COVID-19 that may be spreading through social media and other platforms. “The app has had a pivotal role in supporting national mitigation efforts, and frontline workers, through its advanced contact tracing capabilities, and other services that allow access to health records and isolation, vaccination and medical services for all,” he adds.

Deputy CE Dr. Zakareya Ahmed AlKhajahUser’s Experience
Dr. Alkhajah emphasises that the app has impacted the everyday lives of citizens and residents in Bahrain, through the provision of wide-ranging eServices providing a one-stop-shop for all that is needed or related to the global COVID-19 mitigation efforts. “The user experience is an important matter to the iGA, hence it was always taken into consideration” states Dr. Alkhajah. 
The iGA has received recommendations and suggestions with regards to the ‹BeAware Bahrain› app, which played an important role in revealing areas for improvement, to become flexible and adaptive to individual needs.

BeAware on the World Map
“We are proud that the BeAware app has designated Bahrain as a global destination for digitisation of Government services during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic,” Dr.Alkhajah says, taking into account how the app has fared vis-a-vis those of other countries.

The iGA and the National Medical Taskforce have consistently benchmarked successful mitigation efforts. Dr. Alkhajah acknowledged the cooperation with WHO in documenting and presenting the Kingdom’s experience. “Recently, the iGA along with the Bahrain-based World Health Organization (WHO) Office Representative, Dr. Tasnim Atatrah, highlighted the Kingdom’s experience in deploying modern technologies to support the efforts of the National Medical Taskforce through developing the framework of the BeAware Bahrain app, a unique national initiative which the Kingdom of Bahrain is proud to share with the world, contributing to global efforts to combat the COVID-19.”

Following the success of the BeAware Bahrain application, the Kingdom has assisted other countries in building similar apps of their own to ensure that they can benefit from the best available practices.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the value of fast and resilient digital services. 
The Kingdom of Bahrain has combined emerging technologies with forward-looking policies to turn challenges presented by COVID-19 into long-term opportunities as the digital transformation accelerates.
“BeAware Bahrain has certainly proven to be an asset in helping authorities identify cases and save lives,” concludes Dr. Alkhajah.

#MOBILE APPS #INTERVIEW #BEAWARE BAHRAIN #BTM DECEMBER 2021 #DR. ZAKAREYA AHMED ALKHAJAH

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