By Sarah Townsend
Comment: e-Gates were designed to enable UAE residents to clear passport control in seconds or minutes — not hours.
The GCC, along with most places in the world, is at pains to deploy new technologies to cut costs, streamline arduous administrative processes, and, in general, make people’s lives easier. But it doesn’t always work.
During a recent trip from Dubai to London, I encountered a spate of technology-related hurdles that made the long journey — both overnight and indirect — even more painful.
I had already encountered the first hurdle on previous flights from the UAE: e-Gate issues. A solution to long immigration queues, e-Gates were designed to enable UAE residents to clear passport control in seconds or minutes — rather than hours — by using registered ID cards and a fingerprint test to pass through unmanned electronic gates.
Last summer, the UAE government ramped up e-Gate technology so that all residents could use their Emirates ID cards without prior registration to pass through the gates.
The problem, of course, is that e-Gate queues are now longer than they were in the early days and, therefore, it is all the more important that the technology works. Queueing for 20 minutes only to discover that the gates aren’t working properly and I have to join another queue to show my passport to an actual person somewhat defeats the point.
A week later, on my way home, the queue was shorter (probably because of the time of the flight and the fact that the new Al Maktoum International is less busy), but the technology was still faulty. I tried every one of the five e-Gates before my card was accepted.
The second hurdle was during my transit through Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA). I had two hours to wait for my connection to Dubai and wanted to get online to pass the time rather than spend unnecessary money in duty free.
HIA prides itself on being one of the world’s most efficient and enjoyable airports — in March it was ranked the sixth best airport in the world in the Skytrax World Airport Awards, and it features in government efforts to promote the Gulf state as a centre for tourism and business, especially in the run-up to Qatar World Cup 2022. Free and accessible wifi across the terminal is one of the principal selling points of such campaigns, so you can imagine my dismay when, for the umpteenth time in the past two years of living in the Gulf I was unable to connect my phone to the internet there.
Queuing at HIA’s information desk at 2.45am were at least 15 others with the same complaint, all handing their phones to the airport officials and asking them to solve the problem.
In my case, after repeated attempts, we had to admit defeat, with the official revealing that HIA had about six months ago installed a more “sophisticated” operating system that had unresolved teething problems.
The UAE and other GCC states have set grand ambitions to become among the most digitally advanced nations in the world, by embedding cutting-edge technology into a host of systems. But they must be careful not to deploy smart tech just for the sake of it.
Said it like it should be said, all noise and no play....Like many others, I have had numerous issues in the past and have stopped lining for the e-gate service altogether...good 'ol fashioned PP control is the only reliable thing for now.