Government app

Supporters of the FPM protest in support of the Lebanese army in Beirut, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

In an honest admission that this government has failed to carry out the bare minimum of promised reform measures, it is high time that it provided something useful for the Lebanese people: And it could come in the form of smartphone apps.

When virtually all active people have smartphones, or a laptop, the government – while unable to protect its citizens from kidnappings and carjackings, border incursions and spoiled meat – could at least introduce a system by which most citizens would be able to monitor exactly how their lives will be disrupted each day.

Just as now, many people start the day by checking their email, the weather, or their stock portfolio, the government should create state-run smartphone apps by which citizens can find out in what Lebanon-specific ways the outcome of their day will be determined.

There are innovative, tech-savvy young minds to make this feasible, it just needs some government backing, and a small amount of funding to become a reality.

First, a detailed road map of the country is necessary; with a little tire symbol indicating which roads will be closed due to protests and a digger symbol to indicate road works. Largely, people do not care either way why people are blocking roads, they just need to know how to plan their routes to and from work, school or hospital without facing severe and unexpected delays and diversions.

Next, the state could provide an electricity blackout schedule. While many people create their own at home, and an iPhone app already exists which can help with this, there needs to be an updated version which takes into account the recent spike in power cuts, seen across the country in varying degrees, and which have rendered it nearly impossible to plan for the simplest of everyday tasks, from ironing, to taking the elevator up eight flights of stairs.

After a recent spate of often violent daylight bank robberies, with a little bit of cooperation with the private sector, it would also be really nice if the government could map out exactly which banks are the most secure, which have fully operational CCTV systems and safe bubble rooms at the entrance.

Finally coming after months of protests from seemingly every public sector profession, it would be extremely helpful to know who exactly was planning to voice their grievances on any given day. A clever app would indicate whether or not the public hospitals are going to be open on Wednesday, whether the school gates will be closed on Thursday and when the electricity workers or taxi drivers are planning to strike.

In the absence of genuine political progress, the state can at least admit its failings, and through these small steps, alleviate, by a fraction, the sufferings of the Lebanese people.

The only real problem with this idea is the unreliability of the country’s Internet. Maybe smoke signals would be a more reliable method.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 18, 2012, on page 7.




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