Owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent business disruptions that have come with it, the United Arab Emirates has lifted restrictions on applications that facilitate voice calls over the internet. The statement released by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority features a list of applications such as Microsoft Skype for business and Google Hangouts which are now available to the populace.

The lists of applications are subject to review by the regulatory body.

The statement released by the TRA is in response to the media inquiries sent in due to the state of affairs caused by the pandemic. The regulatory body has called the move a part of the procedures undertaken as “a response to the emerging conditions”. The regulatory body has called the action “an effort to facilitate distance learning and work from home”.

The statement reads “TRA, in coordination with UAE telecom operators announced the availability of a set of applications, exceptionally and until further notice.” The first list of applications which are compatible with all networks in the countries include Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Blackboard. A second list which includes applications that can be accessed within fixed internet networks features Microsoft Skype for Business and Google Hangouts Meet.

With a total count of 198 cases of coronavirus, the lifted restrictions will facilitate employees working from home as well as students taking online classes. Online classes use applications such as Blackboard and MS Teams which are no longer restricted.

As coronavirus cases increase worldwide and countries move into lockdown, access to teleworking and distance learning has gained obvious importance. The extent of the pandemic is visible when countries like UAE, with some of the strictes online media laws, begin relaxing them.

The state blocks most applications that facilitate voice calls over the internet. The measure has resulted in grievances for the predominantly immigrant populace which needs to contact family in foreign lands. Many celebrities from the country have time and again raised voices against the Voice over Internet Protocol. Businessmen have complained about the restricted means of conducting interviews due to the ban on Skype. These laws have been subjected to criticism for undermining freedom of expression for the UAE public.

The government’s strict control over the media from social media regulations to complete control of the media channels has often been scrutinized. The regulation of the media includes enforcing standard regulations and rules as well as consequences of not adhering to the same. In the case of social media and other communication tools, the Internet Access Management Policy is implemented by the TRA in coordination with the licensed internet providers.

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