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Qatar embarking on safe ‘smart’ journey

Tribune News Network
The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) is steering Qatar towards the ‘smart’ direction to address urbanisation challenges. With the MoTC team, Qatar has been investing heavily in digital innovation and disruptive technologies across sectors to take the country’s Vision 2030 forward.
Based on the latest United Nations estimates, the current population of Qatar is 2,744,854, of which 91.3 percent is urban with most people in the age group of 30-40 years. Qatar’s population has grown by 54 percent in the past decade and is looking to grow at a rapid rate in the coming years as well.
HE Reem al Mansoori, assistant undersecretary of Digital Society Development at MoTC, said: “Qatar has been at the front lines of a global transformation towards Safe Smart Cities to become more efficient, more sustainable and more connected. The nation has been pioneering smart living solutions by driving world-class research and innovation, as well as massive investments in smart infrastructure.
“Smart solutions being implemented across sectors reflect the country’s willingness to build a better future for its current and future generations. From the launch of smart security robots at the airport to 3D printers and Super Computers in hospitals, our nation is emerging as one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.”
To ease the travel experience for global citizens, Qatar’s National Tourism Council (QNTC) collaborated with the Ministry of Interior and VFS Global in 2017 to automate the visa application process for all passengers.
The new system allows passengers travelling to Qatar to use the system irrespective of the airline they travelled by. It was meant to be a robust online platform that provided ease and flexibility to tourists visiting Qatar.
Hassan al Ibrahim, assistant secretary-general of QNTC, said, “Enhancing the visitor experience at every touch-point lies at the core of our tourism development vision and we believe this begins even as the visitor is planning his trip. That is why implementing smart visa solutions that facilitate entry to Qatar has been a critical component of our efforts over the past several years and their success has earned Qatar the ranking of most open country in the Middle East and 8th most open in the world. We continue to integrate smart solutions that further enrich the visitor experience, such as special visa application portals that are tied to seasonal festivals.”
In October 2018, Hamad International Airport (HIA) successfully completed the first major phase of its Smart Airport programme enabling up to 40 percent of Qatar Airways’ passengers preferring to self-check-in and a additional 20 percent opting for self-bag-drop.
The airport installed 62 next-generation self-check-in and 12 self-bag-drop kiosks including future biometric technology capability, enabling passengers to check in, print their boarding passes and bag tags, as well as tag their bags and drop them at the kiosks before proceeding to border control. HIA has also introduced an Automated Visa Document Check, which is the first of its kind in any major airport worldwide which allows ground services agents to check a passenger’s visa documentation before continuing their journey.
HIA launched the second phase of its ‘Smart Airport Program’ in August 2019. The systems in this phase are currently under trial. The objective is to combine passengers’ flight, passport and facial biometric information in a single electronic record at the self-check-in kiosk or mobile app.
HIA has recently launched the next phase of its expansion plan to boost the airport’s passenger handling capacity.
Travellers also save time by accessing the facial biometric system through a mobile application before making their way to the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) E-gate system. The E-gate system was launched by the Ministry of Interior in 2016 as part of the ‘Smart Passenger Project’ at the airport to help passengers speed through travel procedures. The electronic gate also helps travellers save passport pages as many of them suffer from rapid depletion of available pages in their passports due to the large number of travel stamps.
Colonel Mohamed Rashid al Mazroui, sirector of the Airport Passports Department at MoI, said: “The activation of the electronic gates for residents has been contributing to the quick completion of travel procedures. Our aim was to help passengers avoid queues and passport control officers to verify their personal data and put the departure or arrival stamp on their passports. We are proud to say that we accomplished our vision with success.”
Bringing all these technologies together this year will be the Qatar International Conference & Exhibition, organised by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. This year’s theme, ‘Safe Smart Cities’ will demonstrate how sustainable, digitised environments will contribute to enhance experiences for current and future generations. It will feature an exclusive zone showcasing the Ministry of Transportation and Communication and its flagship smart living initiative – TASMU, an ICT ecosystem bringing smart solutions to life for the citizens, residents and visitors in Qatar.
With over 90 speakers, 300 technology exhibitors, 100 startups and 300 innovators invited, the Qatar IT Exhibition & Conference aims to be a one-stop-shop for participants to showcase disruptive smart technologies and exchange next-generation knowledge.