| 18 September, 2017

Indian expat's app brings 'smart Dubai' to workers

image used for illustrative purpose 
A woman uses a mobile device while working out in San Francisco, California July 21, 2015.  Image used for illustrative purposes.

image used for illustrative purpose A woman uses a mobile device while working out in San Francisco, California July 21, 2015. Image used for illustrative purposes.

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Dubai - A new app hopes to bring 'Smart Dubai' into the lives of the millions of workers who call the UAE home, by providing them with the skills they need to familiarise with the country, remain happy and advance their careers.

The 'Smart Labour' app, which was designed by Black&White Computer Trading Co. LLC, provides a number of features that its designers say benefit labourers, such as simple-to-use Arabic and English language courses, videos offering tips and advice on money management, and information on proper code-of-conduct and basic company policies that are prevalent in the UAE.

The app is the brainchild of Indian expat Abu Muadh, a self-professed "technical evangelist" with long experience volunteering in workers accommodations across the country. Since the app's official launch in May 2016, the app has gained 12,500 registered users.

"We mostly gave them food but education is more important than food," he told Khaleej Times. "Technology is what helps you reach out to the masses, because there are 2.2 million blue collar workers here."

A particularly eye-opening experience, Muadh noted, came during a phone donation drive that he took part in.


"I gave a phone to a janitor, and I saw the pain on the lady's face as I realised she did not know what e-mail was, or how to use the phone," he recalls. "We struggled to help her set up her phone, and the smile at the end hit me very hard.

"We are living in this smart world, this smart city, and we have this big population that are not using technology," he added. "I thought that we could give them a meaningful education and help them benefit from the smart city."

Effective communication vital

The app comes in a variety of languages that are common among the UAE's workforce, such as Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu and Bengali, as well as English and Arabic.

According to Muadh, language comprehension is vital for the workers to make themselves understood by their employers and the greater population of the UAE.

"They have a lot of things on their mind. People often don't see them as big thinkers, but that's because they can't communicate effectively," he said. "Sometimes, they can't even explain themselves to their supervisors.

"It makes such a difference, being able to communicate. It helps them feel confident and explain themselves," he added. "Many of them want to learn and progress. Having the basics will help them both personally and professionally."

"If even 10 per cent of 2.2 million people are happier, that's a big difference. That's what we hope for," Muadh said.

"We can provide something that will add value to their lives. "If you visit workers accommodations, you see that they really want to connect with their families, and they all have some basic smart phones," Muadh added. "We are trying to get them to connect back to their families, and trying to get their interest by providing them with some kind of telecom reward."

Looking to the future, Muadh said he hopes to reach a wider segment of the UAE's blue-collar population and plans to collect data about workers to help companies understand their workforces.

Additionally, Muadh noted that the app plans to roll out an "online rewards store" that will give the UAE residents and employers multiple options to reward workers.

"Today we only focus on food. We want to broaden this and partner with leading toy stores, electronic stores, groceries, and telecom providers and link the rewards to learning objectives and work-related targets," he said. "Imagine providing a toy to a worker who is going on a vacation back home, or giving him a 50 per cent discount on his air ticket, all with a few clicks."

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