Browsing 'mobile' News

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Smartphone usage is ubiquitous in Qatar, but many users aren’t aware of all the risks that come with owning and operating one.

In a Facebook post this weekend, the Ministry of Interior has offered this advice to help keep your information safe:

Lock your phone

To prevent unauthorized access, ensure that your mobile is only accessible via a personal identification number (PIN) and/or fingerprint scan.

Install apps wisely

Shop in reputable app stores and be sure to check reviews and ratings, as well as the app’s privacy policy.

Back up your data

This can be done wirelessly (think cloud) and comes in handy if any information on your phone is lost or accidentally deleted.

Accept updates

Don’t delay when your phone prompts you to update your operating system and apps. This will help keep your mobile secure and working smoothly.

Don’t store passwords

While convenient, saving passwords can pose a great security risk if the wrong person gets ahold of your phone.

Avoid public WiFi

Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when you’re not using it. These services make it easier for cybercriminals to access your information.

Guard personal info

Avoid storing, texting or emailing personal details because this could create a security risk if your phone is lost or stolen.

Install mobile security apps

Make sure they’re reliable by reading user ratings and and keep them updated to detect any threats.

Remotely wipe your phone

If your mobile is lost or stolen and you don’t think you’ll get it back, consider remotely wiping all the information off of it. This can be done following different protocols, depending on your operating system and security apps.

What advice would you add? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shabina S. Khatri

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

After several years of picking up customers and garnering market share at the expense of its state-backed rival, Vodafone-Qatar is losing ground to its much larger competitor, Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has said.

Vodafone broke the local monopoly of Ooredoo – then known as Qtel – in 2009. For the next two years, the incumbent’s mobile subscriber numbers declined as Vodafone rolled out its services.

In terms of customer market share, the situation has largely stabilized. Approximately two out of every three mobile users in Qatar were Ooredoo clients last year, the same as in 2014, according to the CRA’s annual report, released yesterday.

Katara car parade

Chantelle D'mello

Katara car parade

In financial terms, however, Vodafone is slipping.

The firm now brings in QR30 of every QR100 spent on mobile services by Qatar residents, according to the CRA. That’s down from a peak of QR34 and is a shift that has benefited its competitor, the regulator added.

“Ooredoo’s mobile market share (revenues) remains strong and has seen an improvement in 2015,” the report stated.

‘Ooredoo…clearly surpasses Vodafone’

Driven by Qatar’s rapidly growing population, overall spending on mobile services continues to climb.

The industry’s revenues reached QR10.06 billion in 2015, up 6 percent from QR9.46 billion a year earlier, according to CRA figures.

However, that’s largely failed to translate into similar gains for the industry’s bottom line.

“Market profitability has seen less significant growth,” it said. “Ooredoo’s earnings … and profits clearly surpass Vodafone’s.”

Within Qatar, Ooredoo posted a net profit of QR2.14 billion last year, up 11 percent over 2014. In contrast, Vodafone Qatar lost QR466 million during its 2015 fiscal year.

Both firms have attempted to cut costs by reducing labor expenditures through layoffs. Vodafone said it was trimming its headcount by approximately 50 people earlier this year, while Ooredoo said it was cutting 100 positions at the group level.

Both companies have also shaken up their executive ranks.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Vodafone / Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Vodafone has failed to turn a profit since it started to operate in Qatar.

Its financial woes may be one reason why CRA’s annual report does not discuss the prospect of inviting a third telecom firm to operate in Qatar.

Despite making more than a dozen references to its mandate to promote competition – as well as citing numerous initiatives undertaken in 2015 – there is no mention of a survey, released last September, that showed Qatar residents would welcome a third carrier into the market to help drive prices down.

Thoughts?

Shot from Qatargas TV commercial 2015

Qatargas/YouTube

Shot from Qatargas TV commercial 2015

A powerful new road safety advert airing on Qatar television during Ramadan aims to stop people using their mobile phones whilst driving, a habit that is one of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents in the state.

The 30-second Qatargas commercial – titled, “Did you get the message?” – is being shown on the Arabic channel Qatar TV and can also be viewed on the company’s website, shows a young man texting a friend while driving along The Corniche.

The advert then suddenly cuts as the driver appears to smash into the rear of a red pick-up truck. It finishes by showing his mobile phone lying on the ground, with its shattered screen still showing the text conversation.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the ad is part of the national One Second road safety campaign and is aimed at showing young people the potentially serious consequences of a moment’s distraction behind the wheel of a vehicle.

It states that mobile use while driving was one of the main causes of the 5,320 road accidents in Qatar in 2014 and is the latest in a series of annual Ramadan commercials by the company dealing with road safety issues.

More road deaths

It is being aired as official figures show an increase in the number of people who died in traffic accidents in Qatar during May.

According to the latest national monthly bulletin from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, 23 people died as a result of road traffic accidents in May – up from April’s tally of 21 and four more than May 2014, when there were 19 deaths.

The only other month so far this year when the figure of fatalities from traffic accidents was higher was January, when 31 people died on the country’s roads.

For illustrative purposes only

Hani Arif/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

May 2015 also saw more people injured in minor accidents (668) than in the previous month (647) or for the same time the year before (578).

However, there were three fewer casualties as a result of major accidents in May (58) than in April, when there were 61.

This compares to May 2014, when there were a total of 57 people injured on Qatar’s roads.

Meanwhile, the monthly statistics bulletin also shows that the number of recorded traffic offenses decreased in May.

While Qatar’s population during May rose more than 9 percent year-on-year, and there were 12 percent more vehicles on the roads, the overall number of traffic violations for the month was down 8.3 percent year-on-year.

A total of 145,182 violations were recorded by authorities in May, up by 4 percent on April’s figures.

Comparing the year-on-year numbers, May 2015 saw a 12 percent increase in the number of bookings for driving through a red traffic light. Other offenses detailed in the report including speeding, violating traffic signs, failing to renew registrations and driving licenses and violating traffic instructions, all of which saw a dip in numbers compared to the previous year.

Switch it off

There is no specific category in the report for the number of motorists caught driving while using their mobile phone, however the catch-all category of “other” offenses saw a rise of 58.2 percent on 2014 violations.

The penalty for those caught using a mobile while driving is QR500, and in the past authorities have said they are cracking down on the widespread practice.

The Traffic Department has launched campaigns in the past in a bid to encourage people to voluntarily stop the practice. However critics have said these need to be coupled with tough enforcement to succeed.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lord Jim/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In response, the director-general of Qatar’s traffic department, Brig. Mohammed Saad Al-Kharji, promised at the end of last year that there would be more patrols on the roads, including stationing officers at major intersections, to catch those breaking the law.

Meanwhile, others are trying to encourage voluntary compliance among Qatar residents.

Last year, a local company launched several apps that voluntarily lock a motorist’s mobile phone while a vehicle is moving.

Still from Qatargas 2015 advert

Qatargas/YouTube

Still from Qatargas 2015 advert

Developed by Qatar Mobility Innovations Center, the Salamtek initiative has software that locks a cell phone when a vehicle is moving above a certain speed, logging missed calls and messages and sending automatic replies to those calling a Salamtek-enabled phone.

Early last year, elected officials on Qatar’s Central Municipal Council called for all cars in the GCC to be equipped with technology similar to Salamtech’s software. However, the costs involved in fitting such a system in all cars in the region means it is unlikely that vehicle manufacturers will take up the suggestion unless it is becomes a requirement by multiple Gulf states.

There is an ongoing competition to encourage more people to use the technology, with rewards for the 10 safest drivers.

Belt up

Authorities here are also trying to encourage more people to wear seat belts when in vehicles, and new findings from research undertaken by trauma experts at Hamad Medical Corp. is adding to the existing research showing that belting up saves lives.

A 2012 study for Qatar Shell found that many residents are still reluctant to wear seatbelts. Its figures showed on average 81 percent of drivers buckle up, compared to 71 percent of front-seat passengers and just 8 percent of back-seat passengers in the state.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ryan Dickey/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Recently, a team from Hamad Trauma Center (HTC) has been comparing death rates of people involved in vehicle crashes who wore seat belts with those who were not restrained.

They found that drivers who don’t wear a seat belt are five times more likely to die in a collision than if they were belted up, while the likelihood of unrestrained front seat passengers dying is four times as great.

And it’s even higher for those sitting in the back seat, where passengers are seven times more likely to die if they are not wearing a seat belt, the researchers found.

“Drivers and passengers who are not wearing seat belts are at a much higher risk of dying, being ejected from a vehicle, or suffering from a severe injury or permanent brain damage, if they are involved in a road crash or accident.

“Passengers are 31 times less likely to be ejected from the vehicle if they are using a seat belt. This means the risk of death is three times for those not properly restrained and therefore more likely to be ejected,” Dr. Ayman El-Menyar, HTC Research Consultant and lead author of the paper said.

The findings are part of a HTC research paper entitled: “The Underutilization of Occupant Restraint Systems in Motor Vehicle Injury Crashes: A Quantitative Analysis from Qatar,” which will be published in the journal of Traffic Injury Prevention.

Thoughts?