Qatar News Agency wanted an IT environment to support an interactive news website—called QNA Kids—for children. It used Microsoft SharePoint 2010 for Internet Sites Enterprise with the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development environment. The agency is the first in the region to develop a public website using SharePoint 2010 FIS Enterprise and the first to provide an online rolling news bulletin for Arabic-speaking children.
Qatar News Agency is at the forefront of innovative news and media services in the Middle East. The agency broadcasts in Arabic and English, but until recently had no service dedicated to providing news bulletins in Arabic.
In 2010, Director of Technical Affairs at Qatar News Agency Eng. Khalid Al Motawaa—a keen advocate of electronic media—started an initiative to create an interactive, highly visual news website for children. The QNA Kids website—www.qnakids.com—uses animation with two leading characters called Fahed and Maryam to make its news and current affairs attractive and accessible to children. Children log on to the website at home and in schools in Qatar and other Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan.
Al Motawaa says: “QNA Kids provides news bulletins on politics, economics, culture, and sport, aimed at children and updated every 15 minutes. It helps children engage with world news using pictures, words, and videos, together with electronic games to encourage life-long learning. The website shows the evolution of Qatari children and the educational benefits they receive.”
The website helps children express their opinions by encouraging them to raise questions. It is part of a mission to promote the culture of children’s rights by inspiring young minds to benefit from modern IT. The initiative has been extended through a community outreach programme involving schools, field tours, and events to attract more young people to the service.
The agency wanted to deliver the content to handheld devices such as the iPad, as well as conventional desktop or portable computers. Al Motawaa adds: “We also thought that cross-browser support was an important requirement for any website publishing solution, to ensure compatibility with different client systems.”Solution
Qatar News Agency was already familiar with Microsoft web content management technology, having used Microsoft Content Management Server 2002 and subsequently Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Al Motawaa says: “It was time to make our next move and implement the latest Microsoft release—SharePoint 2010 FIS Enterprise, which we found to offer better features for publishing public-facing websites.”
For the project delivery, the agency assembled a QNA Web Team comprising three developers, a web designer, system analyst, systems administrator, and graphic designer. It used Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, and the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 and 4.0 as the development environment. The solution architecture also includes the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software.
For the content of the website—designed to raise children’s awareness of the importance of the press and media—the developers cooperated closely with the agency’s news desk and editors. Future plans include introducing story telling for children, provided through the Microsoft Silverlight framework and HTML5 for running rich Internet applications.
On the technical side, SharePoint 2010 FIS Enterprise offered the cross-browser compatibility that the developers wanted. This is helping to boost take-up of the service. Another advantage is that with this technology it is easy to deliver content to handheld devices such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
The QNA Web Team completed and launched the website in just three months. Al Motawaa says: “It was a great team effort, which met our objectives and delivered added value to the solution. We collaborated closely with Microsoft Qatar over our chosen technology through Microsoft Enterprise Technology Strategist Ra’ed Masri and his colleagues. In terms of business-critical support, they undertook a health check of the system after its launch and have provided post-deployment technical advice when required.”Benefits
Qatar News Agency in the Gulf says it is the first public broadcasting body in the Middle East to provide an online rolling news bulletin for Arabic-speaking children and schools. The agency developed the QNA Kids public website in just three months using SharePoint 2010 FIS Enterprise—another first in the Arab world. Since its launch at the end of 2010, the number of visitors accessing the website has increased by 15 per cent, with many Qatari schools using the service and interest coming from Egypt and Jordan.
Contributing to the development of children. The agency sees the QNA Kids website as a major contributor to promoting the culture of children’s rights in Arab states. In addition, it plays a large role in assisting young people in expressing themselves using IT.
Child-friendly website. The Qatar News Agency developer team is using Visual Studio 2010 to support animation and other child-friendly features such as background colours and lighting. It also plans to make use of Microsoft Silverlight and HTML5 for a story-telling service on the website. Ahmed Abdelkader, Head of Web Development at Qatar News Agency, says: “Through master page customisation, we’ve made the website highly visual and child-friendly.”
Rapid take-up of interactive service. The number of visitors to the website has increased by 15 per cent since launch, with the schools in Qatar using the service for teaching and learning. Al Motawaa says: “Our attempts at involving children—for example, running competitions testing them on their knowledge of current affairs—have been highly successful. We’re encouraging young children to become the journalists of the future.”
Innovation in electronic media. With the development of its service for children, Qatar News Agency has enhanced its reputation for thought leadership in electronic media in Arabic-speaking countries. Al Motawaa says: “We’re proud to be the first public service broadcaster in the Arab countries to develop a public-facing website using Microsoft SharePoint 2010 FIS Enterprise.” This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.