A new Palestinian-developed mobile driving app helps Palestinian drivers uncover routes to towns and villages and avoid new checkpoints in the West Bank, services that the mainstream providers like Google Maps and Waze often fail to offer in an occupied region scattered with the regime’s settlements and military bases.
Launched in June, the app, called Doroob Navigator, is the brainchild of 39-year-old Mohammad Abdel Haleem, the CEO of Doroob Technologies, which is funded by Ramallah-based software firm Ideal, also controlled by Abdel Haleem.
“We had to design our maps completely from scratch. The wall, checkpoints, settlements … existing mapping software could never account for the complexity here,” said Abdel Haleem.
The app has garnered 22,000 users in just two months, and according to its developer, it might be monetized in the future in part via a delivery feature.
As with mainstream platforms like Waze and Google Maps, Doroob Navigator allows users to report traffic trouble, but its advantage over the two commonly-used apps is that it also enables users to include pop-up Israeli police and military checkpoints or road closures.
With this enormously helpful feature, Doroob Navigator creates a more precise picture of the traffic reality for Palestinian drivers.
The newly-developed app combines reports from its users with manual inputs by its engineering staff in an attempt to help drivers avoid crippling checkpoint traffic and circumvent Israeli settlements.
Some three million Palestinians live in the West Bank along with some 450,000 Israeli settlers, who can generally drive in the region without major restriction using the so-called “bypass roads” built to avoid Palestinian towns. Most Palestinians cannot enter and drive through Israeli settlements.
“Other apps might say the only way to drive between certain Palestinian cities is to cut through a settlement,” Abdel Haleem said, adding, “We’re trying to change that.”
He said the app is also available in the besieged Gaza Strip, though most active users are in the occupied West Bank.
“We need applications like this that help us move within Palestine,” said Nicolas Harami, 31, who uses the app while driving from his home in East Jerusalem to Ramallah and other West Bank cities. “Other applications do not understand our situation,” he added.
About 600,000 Israeli settlers live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands.
Settlements are illegal under international law and are a stumbling block to the resolution of the Palestine issue.
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