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Saudi Arabia to unblock WhatsApp, Viber and Skype

September 14, 2017

Online video calling apps, including WhatsApp, Skype and Viber, will be unblocked in Saudi Arabia from next week, Arab News reported.

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawahah said that negotiations with telecommunication service providers and related bodies are underway to enable customers to use the apps to make voice and video calls of the "highest quality", the report said.

However, the usage of the apps will be heavily monitored by the government bodies and service providers, Al-Sawahah was quoted as saying. Telecom companies will also be required to provide quarterly index of complaints filed by subscribers in order to ensure transparency.

The apps were blocked in Saudi Arabia in 2013, after the government claimed that they "do not meet the regulatory conditions” in the kingdom. An industry source had then alleged that the move was motivated by business interests.

“This fruitful cooperation between the Kingdom’s telecoms partners comes under the umbrella of ‘Customer First,’ a policy in which everyone works in order to give all telecom subscribers in the Kingdom the best services that meet their expectations and satisfy their needs,” he said.

The initiative has been taken as a part of the Vision 2030, a plan by the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to reinvent the Saudi economy, that aims to develop a digital society by improving the technology sector among its other goals.