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The Deera Initiative: Together Making Kuwait Better
October 12, 2014, 8:34 am

Many of us often look at the plight of our neighborhoods and lament the lack of effective upkeep or wish the municipality would do a better job at clearing the pile of garbage or mending the hole in the road. Without knowing whom to reach out to, we accept situations and learn to live around it.

But not anymore; good news comes in the form of Deera — a crowd sourcing app that now enables residents around Kuwait to report public issues such as hazardous road situations, abandoned cars, over-flowing garbage bins, and building debris. Deera then take up the matter with respective governmental bodies to ensure necessary action is taken. According to users of the app, the commendable part is the speediness with which their reported issues are actually being rectified.

Fairly impressed, The Times Kuwait spoke to the man behind the non-profit initiative. Haytham Al Hawaj, who was involved in a mishap that motivated him to develop the app. “Every now and then, I’d use my bicycle as a mean of transportation.

This helps me stay in shape, gives me time to reflect and allows me to view my surroundings at a more normal pace as opposed to that of being in a car.

But whenever I would go cycling, I couldn’t help but notice many rather hazardous problems on the very roads and streets that are meant for the public. These problems, which ranged from neglected waste to dangerous potholes in roads, never seemed to get the attention they should get. 

“One day, as I was cycling back home, I fell in a sewer hole that was left uncovered. This incident, along with the frustration that had been gradually building up, became the unintended catalyst for Deera.”

Al Hawaj, a serial entrepreneur in several successful F&B and IT startups as well as cofounder of Think Café, Goalcourts, Snaprint and Abidoc,  says “he reported the issue and in the process of doing so experienced several obstacles, which the Deera App is currently addressing.”

It took Al Hawaj two years of planning before it was launched successfully in April, this year. The concept was developed by the team at DESIGNED – value innovation, a firm specialized in employing state-of-the-art technology to solve real life problems.

When asked what is involved in making an App like Deera, Al Hawaj replied, “There are several aspects, such as, identifying the problem, planning, developing, testing and quality control, logistics and launching.”

Deera is fairly simple to use with current smart phone technology. As a mobile/web application, the process is quiet straight forward; the user registers in order to login, then specifies the nature of the incident, writes a brief description, uploads an image that was just taken, or that had been taken a while back, and lastly, the app picks up the location of that incident and sends it to the Deera team. 

Once the report is sent, it gets forwarded to governmental entity charged with handling matters of that nature, and with that, the follow-up process begins. Once the problem is properly addressed, the user receives a notification informing that the problem has been fixed.

Users, who have already experienced the effectiveness of the app, hope that it continues to maintain its promptness. Popular blogger of and a user of the app, wrote a post about it few months back, saying ‘that he was pretty surprised, not just at the app but at the fact that the people behind the app are able to coordinate and get action from the relevant entity so quickly’.

When a problem has been reported, it takes from 24 hours up to two weeks based on the governmental entity that is responsible for each of the reported issues. “It depends on the procedure that each of those entities have to follow in order to properly address the issue at hand,” explains Al Hawaj.

Al Hawaj says “Deera benefits citizens, residents, and even visitors. So, basically anybody residing in or visiting Kuwait and using certain public services could utilize and benefit from this initiative.”

Within six months of its launch, some significant work has been done around Kuwait. Common problems are being addressed in timely manner. With the help of the Deera team, taking action is just a snap, upload and click away.

In August, the Deera Initiative was one of the three CSOs awarded a grant by en.v., as part of the final phase of the STAND Program – a regional program which aims to build the capacity of the local civil society sector through training, funding, and networking opportunities.

Al Hawaj is pleased with the response the initiative has received so far, but he plans to improve the technology and get more stakeholders involved. Currently, Deera has around 2000 active users. To be a user, simply download the app on your iPhones or Android phones or log onto their website and be part of this great initiative.

By Shabana Shaikh
Special Report
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