Online applications help Qatar residents overcome COVID-19 challenges

  • 2 months   ago

Online applications are helping residents to continue their work and also to maintain social distancing which is crucial in overcoming challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. People are using online applications to perform various activities. Online applications are helping people to get medical consultation, do banking transactions and money transfer, renewal of technical inspection of vehicles and host of other activities. Students are continuing their studies through online education while professionals are doing their office work from home.

The online services are making sure that routine life of residents remains normal, despite disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The digital infrastructure created by the government departments and other financial institutions is playing a crucial role in normal functioning of online services. 

Under the Qatar Digital Government (QDG) strategy, around 1,000 government services are offered online, which allow residents to avail many services at home, doing away with the need to visit different departments. Residents can use Qatar e-Government Portal ‘Hukoomi’ to access all e-services provided by government entities and their electronic applications. 

“I have renewed health cards of my family members online which is a big relief. Earlier, I used to renew the cards by visiting Wakra Health Center because I was unaware about online renewal. I came to know about it after one of my friends told me that it can also be renewed online,” Abdul Rahman, told The Peninsula. “Given the current situation, I was hesitant to go outside and the online renewal helped me doing that,” he added.

Taking proactive steps, government departments and institutions have launched several initiatives related to online services. 

The Ministry of Public Health, in coordination with other stakeholders, has launched new virtual healthcare service. The service allows patients to schedule an appointment with healthcare by dialing 16000 to have a virtual consultation with their healthcare provider, receiving medical advice, sick leave and get their medicine delivered to their doorstep.

HMC has launched an innovative Urgent Consultation Service that enables patients with non-life threatening conditions to speak to a specialist physician over the phone. Patients can dial 16000 and will then be routed to an HMC coordinator who will triage their case before transferring them to a specialist. 

This service will cover 11 specialities for urgent care needs only – urology, cardiology, orthopaedics, general medicine, general surgery, dermatology, ENT, OBGYN, dental and paediatrics. The specialists will also be able to check and book/rebook appointments if needed. These services are available to all registered PHCC and HMC patients with Health Cards.

Virtual classes are emerging as an alternative for the classes of schools and universities which were suspended to curb the spread of COVID-19. Different departments at Qatar University are holding virtual learning classes. Lectures are being held regularly and are easily accessible for all students. As of March 19, more than 500 classes had been held while more than 1,500 hours had been spent on the virtual learning system through ‘BlackBoard’ portal. The new system is helping students to have interactive communication with professors. This technique also allows students to ask questions by voice recording and writing. This system aims to enrich academic experience at Qatar University.

Motorists are also using online service to renew their vehicle registration (Istimara). Over 8,000 people have renewed their vehicle registration via Metrash2 during March 19 to 23. They were exempted from technical inspection at Fahes centres under preventive measures to contain COVID-19. Traffic Department had earlier said that all vehicles would be exempted from technical inspection.

The demand for online delivery of food and other items have also increased in Qatar. Most of the online food and retail outlets in Qatar which offer home-delivery services for groceries and food items are flooded with orders. The order books of some retailers are so full that they have even put regret messages on their websites as the slots are not available for immediate delivery. 

Because of high Internet penetration and increasing awareness in Qatar, the use of digital payments — whether on mobile phones, cards, or online — has remained comparatively high. Now the residents have stepped up the use of cards and online transactions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Residents are also increasing use of digital transactions to limit their movements outside. Many banks and other financial institutions have urged their customers to opt for cashless payment. Bank officials say that advancement in technology has made it very simple to make digital payments.

Banks in Qatar have rolled out contact less cards that have removed the need of pressing the Personal Identification Number (PIN) at the retail outlets. Contact less cards allow customers to pay by simply tapping the card on the Point of Sale (PoS) machines or ATMs.

Considering the importance of online payments, the Qatar Central Bank on Sunday announced the launch of Qatar Mobile Payment System” (QMP), which paves way for a cashless and card less payment gateway within Qatar. The system aims to enable the user to use the electronic wallet on his or her mobile phone to carry out electronic payments from one person to another and pay the purchase price in addition to conducting withdrawals and cash feeds for electronic wallets in an instant, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A digital wallet (or e-wallet) is a software-based system that securely stores users’ payment information and passwords for numerous payment methods and websites.  By using a digital wallet, users can complete purchases easily and quickly.

Digital wallets can be used in conjunction with mobile payment systems, which allow customers to pay for purchases with their smartphones. A digital wallet can also be used to store loyalty card information and digital coupons.

After the announcement of Qatar Mobile Payment System, Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has become one of the first banks in Qatar to go live with the mPay digital wallet initiative on its Mobile App. QIB customers can activate their mPay digital wallet through its mobile app, which will be linked to their mobile number. Once activated, customers can easily load money on their mPay wallet using their QIB accounts.

With a loaded mPay digital wallet, customers can make instant transfers to other wallets within QIB, or the wallets of customers at other banks that are registered on mPay, by simply entering the beneficiary mobile number from their phone ‘Contact List’. Similarly, QIB customers can receive funds on their mPay wallet from any other mPay wallet. Customers can also choose to move their cash from their mPay wallet back to their QIB accounts at any time, easily, through QIB’s mobile app.

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