With the population in lock-down, the UAE government is renewing focus on digital technologies. On April 29, the Ministry of Education announced it will provide free high-speed internet for students and teachers who do not have access to broadband.
Dubai police meanwhile have warned of the hidden threats of mobile video-games.
The UAE generally has access to good quality internet. Although access is heavily censored to match the state’s politics and morality laws, citizens have a variety of options to choose from, from mobile data to fiber-optic internet at home. The government now seeks to extend access as students and teachers are forced to study from home.
Education in isolation
Streaming video and online assignments have replaced the class-room during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the country remains on lock-down, and, as students and teachers adapt to the new normal, the need for high-speed internet has become more apparent than ever.
The Ministry of Education has announced it will provide free high-speed internet via satellite in order to ensure all students and teachers can have fast access to educational material.
“Continuity of learning and the provision of educational tools and resources are key national priorities in the current conditions” said Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education.
The minister highlighted how some remote regions do not have broadband access and said the government aims to “bridge the gap” through the initiative.
The collaboration between the government and local telecom-provider Yahsat will provide access to educational material provided by the UAE’s Remote Schooling initiative. The country provides a digital platform, apps, and online libraries where students can continue their education from home.
Al Muhairi said the program is being well received by users. “After the launch of the ministry’s Remote Schooling initiative, we have witnessed a high level of responsibility, awareness and increased logistic and financial support that are helping us achieve the desired outcomes.”
The UAE initiative comes after the World Economic Forum (WEF) declared that the pandemic has “changed education forever.”
According to WEF research online-education results in better retention of information and is more efficient, predicting online classrooms could become the new model for education worldwide.
Threats to privacy
As the Ministry of Education expands internet access, the country is also focused on what students do online in their free time. The Dubai Police have issued an advisory statement on free online video games, in order to spread awareness over privacy concerns and data use in popular mobile entertainment.
Popular online games including PUBG, Mobile Legends and Call of Duty Mobile are only ‘free’ in name only, the Dubai Police stated. The police department highlighted how many games billed as free in app-stores actually make significant profits through the sale of personal data. The issue is presented as a privacy problem and echoes many concerns from industry-experts.
The games the Dubai Police named as examples are considered “freemium,” a maturing business model that offers high quality video games with no initial purchase cost. These games often offer in-app purchases to entice users to spend real money on digital products. An example of a popular freemium game, Pokemon Go, made $14 million in its first week without charging for the app.
The move from the Dubai police department to inform parents of the potential dangers of mobile gaming comes at an opportune time, as children increasingly spend time on their phones.
By recognizing many of the threats industry experts have reported, Dubai Police hopes to protect both children and parents who are often unaware of the privacy-implications of these apps.