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Bringing More Transparency into Kuwaiti Politics with an App

Raqib50 means "Watch50" in Arabic. Why Raqib50 [Watch50]? Because there are 50 Members of Parliament in the National Assembly in Kuwait, and Raqib50 is an app that helps hold each of them accountable for their actions.

Raqib50 founders built the first version of the application in 2011 with the help of a Swedish software development company. The application was functional, however, with further development, a need for new updates and features emerged. That is why the founders decided to look for another tech partner.

Challenges

The goal was clear: make Kuwait politics more transparent. Technically, the data on MPs’ activity is available to everyone. Unfortunately, the reality is not so rosy, and it is very difficult to access such data and have a general overview of what the MPs are doing at a given time. Raqib50 was designed to change it.

When designing the application, Raqib50 founders researched similar solutions in several African countries, the UK, and Sweden to design a parliament-watch application tailored to the Kuwaiti political system.

Raqib50 is an online non-profit organization with no sustainable funding, operating on a limited budget. The founders were looking for an efficient Ruby on Rails (RoR) team to develop the application. The problem was that in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf region, software development is very expensive. The key challenges Raqib50 faced included:

  1. Reengineering an existing app to support a mobile-dominated market better.

  2. Dealing with a language barrier (Arabic).

  3. Meeting an unexpectedly short deadline (earlier elections).

The past experience with remote teams from Europe showed that Arabic can be a substantial problem. The language barrier seemed to raise difficulties with designing and developing an application.

Initially, the application launch date was set for February 2017. To make things even more difficult for the developers, the date had to be moved three months forward. This was because the Emir of Kuwait issued a decree in October 2016 that dissolved the country's parliament. Early elections were scheduled for the end of November, as was Raqib50’s relaunch deadline.

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Solutions

Looking for experienced and efficient RoR developers, Raqib50 founders chose Netguru. The task was to take control over the existing code and build a mobile app from scratch. The key aspects of the successful launch included:

  1. Performing a detailed scoping session and establishing and maintaining close communications.

  2. Implementing a mobile-first design.

  3. Prioritizing functionalities for a fluctuating deadline.

The scoping session proved to be vital to the final success. Both Raqib50’s founders and Netguru’s team made sure they understood each other perfectly. An in-depth grasp of the idea behind the app and the founders' vision made it possible for Netguru’s designers and developers to suggest changes that would simplify the work, and allow Netguru to complete the project within the unexpectedly tight deadline.

With our previous software developer, it was a one-task project. We designed the application, sent them the design, they programmed it and returned the final product with little opportunity to improve it. We hardly cooperated at all.

With Netguru, the situation is completely different. We started with a scoping session, where we could get to know the team and make sure we are all on the same page. Since then, we have constantly been in touch, and we know all about the project progress and possible issues. This made working together very efficient.

The developers were great and had no major issues with the exotic language. Moreover, they even did some translations on their own using automatic translators. My biggest concern – miscommunication with a remote team – proved to be groundless. Apart from the weekly calls, we kept in touch to solve all the language issues.

Abdullah Alkhonaini, co-founder of Raqib50

Netguru developers and the PM were always accessible on the Slack channel, had regular weekly Google Hangouts to talk things over, and used Toggle for measuring the time spent on working on tasks and Jira for project management.

Key Benefits

To meet the tight deadline, Netguru had to adjust quickly. Together with Raqib50 founders, Netguru decided to postpone the launch of two features. The new app version was released on the 11th of November, just three weeks before the early parliamentary elections. Five days before the election date, one of the suspended functionalities was also added. The key benefits of partnering with Netguru included:

  1. Releasing an MVP before the unexpected deadline.

  2. Popularity of the app exceeding expectations.

  3. Positive feedback from over 1,400 visitors a day.

During the first months, the website averaged 1,400 visitors a day. The application presents the traffic data in the form of infographics. The app is easy to navigate and it connects voters with the MPs. Voters can follow them, check what they do and hold them accountable for their acts.

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The popularity exceeded our expectations and proved that such a service was much needed in Kuwait. Most of the traffic is on mobile devices, and the mobile version of Raqib50 is the part of the project Netguru built from scratch.

Abdullah Alkhonaini, co-founder of Raqib50

At the moment, Netguru are working on the next stages of the Raqib50 project, putting more effort into bringing more transparency into Kuwaiti politics.

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