The Cairo metro authority has launched a service allowing users to send comments and complaints directly over WhatsApp.
Using the popular smartphone application, users can now send texts, photos or video messages directly to the number 01021778887. People who prefer not to use WhatsApp can continue to contact the authority by calling its hotline at 16048.
“The purpose of this service is to raise the performance level on the metro which is used by millions of Egyptians daily,” metro authority spokesman Ahmed Abdel Hady told the state-owned Middle East News Agency.
According to the Abdel Hady, the service received more than 2,000 messages on its first day. Many users welcomed the new service, while others offered complaints: Vendors in the metro were a recurring topic, Abdel Hady told local media, as was the ongoing closure of Sadat metro stop. The station, which lies underneath Tahrir Square and is a major transit point, has been closed since August 2013.
While the metro authority appears to be embracing WhatsApp, the application —which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 — has not always had a warm welcome in Egypt.
In 2013, Egypt considered banning the service, which allows users to chat for free over wifi or data connections, bypassing text messaging charges imposed by mobile phone operators. At the time, the government cited both economic and security concerns about the service.
That plan was never carried out, but the company is currently facing controversy over its new voice application, which allows users to make voice calls over the internet.
Vodafone, Egypt’s largest mobile service provider, has questioned the legality of Whatapp’s voice calling feature, citing local laws that tightly restrict the use of Voice Over Internet Protocol technology.