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Lebanon News

App lets Lebanese tell worried loved ones ‘I am still alive’

A new smartphone app allows users to click one button and instantly tweet the message: “I am still alive! #Lebanon #LatestBombing.”

BEIRUT: The routine is a familiar one to Lebanese citizens by now, no matter where in the world they are. Reports spread of a blast; people scramble to contact their friends and family; phone lines are temporarily jammed; anxiety builds until you can get through to each and every person and check if they are still alive.

But what if there was an easier way? A new smartphone app released this week offers exactly that, allowing users to click a single button and instantly tweet the message: “I am still alive! #Lebanon #LatestBombing.”

Anyone worried about a loved one need only go to their Twitter page to check whether they are OK.

Sandra Hasan, the Lebanese developer behind “I am Alive,” said she originally intended the app to be a joke. “It was mainly meant to be a sarcastic expression of frustration with the situation,” she told The Daily Star. “It was my way of expressing my discontent.”

But with four bombings in the last month alone, it seems the 26-year-old student has hit upon a niche in the market, albeit a slightly morbid one.

“Since publishing it I’ve received a stream of feedback asking for it to be developed further and many people have taken it seriously, believing that it could serve a practical purpose,” she said.

Although she is currently doing a master’s in public health at a university in Paris, her bachelor’s degree is in computer science. This is her third app, but she said she develops them “for fun” rather than for money.

Google Play, the online Android marketplace where people can get the free app, does not yet have any download statistics, but by Thursday evening the appearance of tweets saying “I am still alive!” showed a handful of people were already trying it out.

Of course, for the app to be useful, the user needs to have Twitter and their friends and family need to know how to view their tweets, not exactly realistic for most elderly relatives.

So Hasan is “considering developing it [the app] further, and perhaps implementing a different system altogether, independent of social networks.”

And in a tongue-in-cheek poke at the now predictable outpourings from politicians in response to attacks, Hasan said she was also planning a similar “condemnation” app to allow political figures to quickly and easily denounce the latest violence.

“It falls in line with the spirit in which the ‘I am Alive’ app was conceived,” she said.

“It’s just a way to poke fun at an otherwise grim situation.

“I fully intend to develop it as I think it punctuates the message.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 24, 2014, on page 4.

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Summary

With four bombings in the last month alone, it seems the 26-year-old student has hit upon a niche in the market, albeit a slightly morbid one.

Although she is currently doing a master's in public health at a university in Paris, her bachelor's degree is in computer science. This is her third app, but she said she develops them "for fun" rather than for money.

Of course, for the app to be useful, the user needs to have Twitter and their friends and family need to know how to view their tweets, not exactly realistic for most elderly relatives.

In a tongue-in-cheek poke at the now predictable outpourings from politicians in response to attacks, Hasan said she was also planning a similar "condemnation" app to allow political figures to quickly and easily denounce the latest violence.


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