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Saudi government decision to unblock Internet calling a welcome step

RIYADH: Users of online apps providing Internet calling were a joyous lot on Thursday after the government issued directives to remove a block on online voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Imo and Skype.
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Sawaha on Wednesday directed that apps that have met regulatory requirements be unblocked to allow users to easily access them within a week, starting Sept. 20.
The step comes in line with the ministry’s “Customer Comes First” policy, which focuses on improving services to customers, both Saudi and non-Saudi, said the ministry.
Al-Sawaha, who is also the chairman of the board of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said in a statement that coordination efforts were ongoing with telecom providers to enable customers to access online voice and video call applications.
“It reflects our sustained efforts to provide users of telecom services in the Kingdom with the finest services that meet their expectations and needs,” Al-Sawaha underlined.
Welcoming the move, Riyadh-based software engineer Zafar Hasan described it as a “very helpful initiative” for both citizens and expatriates, reflective of the commitment to ensure transparency and clarity in the delivery of the finest telecom services.”
“I came to know about the unblocking of the free Internet calls this morning while reading Arab News and am very excited to use these calling apps,” he said adding the move will certainly help in cutting down on calling costs for both local and international destinations, and will open up the telecom market and reduce calling costs.
Saquib Hamza, a recruitment executive from Dammam told Arab News: “Expatriates from all around the globe are working in the Kingdom, doing business, and in this digital age when such free apps are available, it was painful to spend huge amounts on telephone bills. Most of the unskilled laborers were spending a lot on calls in order to speak to their family and friends — they will benefit most from this kind directive of the ministry.”
Moreover, from a corporate point of view, communications would be improved with frequent video-conferencing, which will immensely help human resources and the recruitment industry by reducing the cost of regular international calls, he added.
The number of individuals who use smartphones as the primary means of Internet access in the Kingdom is globally among the highest, highlighting the need to keep pace with the rapid growth in technology and provide highly reliable infrastructure and networks.

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