New ‘honesty’ app takes internet by storm

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The Saudi Arabian tech scene is far from developed, but Saudi programmer Zainalabdin Tawfiq is looking to change that with a new “honesty” app that is becoming hugely popular across the globe.

According to Yahoo, the app is essentially an old school suggestion box in which users can submit anonymous feedback to workplace or social groups.

“Sarahah is the digital equivalent of an old-school suggestion box,” 29-year-old Tawfiq told AFP, noting people are far more frank with each other without names and faces behind the criticism.

“Feedback is the goal — anonymous feedback.”

Constructed while Tawfiq took time out his day job as a business analyst, the app has a frugal design. It is called Sarahah — honesty in Arabic. It has subsequently topped the charts in app downloads.

The interface elicits a simple prompt that encourages users to “leave a constructive message :)”, with the recipient not allowed to reply but only share it on social media or block the sender.

It so far has 85 million registered users world wide and as it gains popularity in Western countries onlookers are viewing Saudi’s economy as ‘Oil’s decline, entrepreneurship’s rise’.

“The success story of Sarahah really proves that Saudi startups can achieve spectacular gains when properly supported,” said Nawaf Alsahhaf, CEO of Badir, a government-backed technology incubator that helped Tawfiq. “There truly is undeniable potential behind Saudi startups we currently incubate,” he told AFP.

“It is clear oil’s decline and entrepreneurship’s rise are necessarily intertwined,” the Beirut-based venture capital firm Leap Ventures wrote on its website last year, noting a new growth in disruptive tech innovations in the region.

One issue with the app is, of course, the potential for abuse and hateful rather than constructive dialogue. Tawfiq says this is his main concern and where he will be focusing his energies moving forward.

“I believe that even one case (of abuse) is actually too many,” Tawfiq said. “I won’t tell you how, but my aim is to make the job of misusers as difficult as possible.

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