Water conservation is no game in Jordan - or maybe it is

A young boy uses the water app, which is based on “Snakes and Ladders”, in Amman.

Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation has introduced a smartphone application based on the popular retro game “Snakes and Ladders” to shed light on the importance of water conservation in the kingdom.
The app was introduced several months ahead of the usually dry summer that brings severe water shortages.
Ministry spokesman Omar Salama pointed out that the game is among a series of applications that target all of society.
“The application is based on a popular board game, which we and our families used to play, but this time it is played using smart applications on smart devices that are used by almost everyone. The game can be found on Google Play and it is part of the ministry’s corporate responsibility efforts,” he added.
“The functionality of the game is simple: When the ladder takes you up you receive an important tip regarding conserving water and, when the snake takes them down, users receive a message that encourages them to conserve water,” Salama explained.
The application, designed to simulate modern games found on smart devices, provides information about the water situation in Jordan and important tips on how to address it.
“Our aim is to increase public awareness and build a shared sense of water conservation responsibility among all ages,” Salama said.
The Ministry of Water and Irrigation said water per capita in Jordan was 88% below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic metres annually. Available water resources offer 800-900 million
cubic metres (mcm) of water per year, which meets the needs of approximately 3 million people. Jordan has a population of almost 10 million.
Stressing the importance of smart applications in educating the public, Mohammed Hmedat, an expert in Android-based games, said the effects of such games were usually positive.
“The fact that it is based on a popular board game makes it easier to relate to and it will gain popularity in no time due to its educational aspect. Parents should encourage their children to use this game and learn about the importance of conserving water at home, school and anywhere.”
The penetration rate of smartphones in Jordan as of March 2017 was 83% compared to 99% in the United Arab Emirates, 95% in Qatar, 93% in Saudi Arabia, 91% in Lebanon and 65% in Tunisia, statista.com states.
Jordan has seen a strong increase in the number of internet users in recent years. In December 2000, there were 127,300 internet users in Jordan compared to 6.3 million users in December 2017, Internet World Stats reported.
Playing to learn is not a new concept as this method has proven effective when dealing with younger people, said Abla Twal, 30, a teacher at a private school in Amman.
“Smartphones and tablets are becoming more and more popular among students and there are many games that are used in classrooms as part of learning methods. My students enjoy it more than books when we ask them to use their tablets and download a certain application to learn math, English or science,” Twal said.
“The new generation is being swamped with technology and this technology has a good and a bad side and parents should draw the line. Engaging students in the educational process through games is an excellent way.”
The game can be accessed here.
Roufan Nahhas
, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.