A key role for the Sharjah Arab Child Parliament is to foster a dialogue between children, ministers and decision-makers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to offer children everything they need to be able to grow and progress in their lives, including their participation in society and their contribution to building their country.
When a new Sharjah Arab Child Parliament needed to be voted in recently, the danger posed by the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible to host the elections as a live event and an online system had to be crafted.
Billy Einkamerer, founder and MD of Assemble, explains that the elections are a serious business. “There are candidates that lobby for support on their issues and apply for positions in the Parliament.
“This was traditionally done in person, but the organisers realised they couldn’t do that for these elections.”
With just six weeks to go until the elections, Assemble got a call from Anchovy, an agency based in Dubai.
“They asked if we could build the online system for them, using PHP and Laravel,” Einkamerer says. “It had to be ready within six weeks and allow children from 22 Arab countries to vote for positions in their Parliament.”
To achieve fast system response with low latency, Assemble leveraged AWS CloudFront Edge location in Dubai and used the AWS Region in Bahrain. AWS CloudFront was deployed in all the participating countries so the system would be quick and secure for the children to access.
Amazon CloudFront is a global content delivery network (CDN) service built for high-speed, low-latency performance, security, and developer ease-of-use.
Content delivery networks provide a globally-distributed network of proxy servers that cache content, such as Web videos or other bulky media, more locally for consumers, thus improving access speed for downloading the content.
Needless to say, Assemble got the system up and running in time, it ran flawlessly on the day, and the elections went off without a hitch.
But there were some interesting challenges along the way which the team hadn’t anticipated.
“One of the main issues we ran into was that we speak English, but the site had to be in Arabic,” Einkamerer says.
“In addition, unlike our writing, Arabic writing goes from right to left and that was another issue that had to be solved. Fortunately, the technologies we used handles these challenges well; allowing multiple languages and right-to-left as default settings.”
Einkamerer adds: “This was also one of our first deployments using CloudFront and we needed support in getting CloudFront in multiple regions to work with user sessions from a single instance of PHP and Laravel.
“But First Distribution came to our rescue, setting up a quick session with one of their AWS solution architects who was able to pinpoint the problem and we sorted it out quickly.
“It was a real bonus working with First Distribution on this project – they were super helpful and were able to quickly sort out any problems that came up.”
Prior to election day, all the Parliamentary positions and candidates were loaded on to the back-end system. The positions were then turned on for voting one at a time. “Every 15 minutes, a new position was switched on and voters could make their mark.”
Importantly, the system is mobile-friendly, so voters could log in from anywhere.
The back-end reporting system, built by Assemble, then output reports on the candidates, positions and the winner of each.
Voting for the Sharjah Arab Child Parliament happens once or twice a year, so the system can be reused.
“We backed up a temporary page and moved the whole site to S3, with a static page as a placeholder,” Einkamerer says. “This means the billing drops to less than a dollar a month while the system is not in use. But we can bring it back up easily enough for the next election.”
Partnering with FD and AWS
Assemble partners with First Distribution and AWS as an AWS Select Tier Partner.
The company is 11 years old, with 16 staff members, and has completed many of the AWS certifications.
Having started life as a traditional Web-development company, Assemble moved to cloud-based solutions in 2018. “We found we could build faster and break less – in short, we loved it,” Einkamerer says.
As a happy and committed AWS partner, Assemble broadened its horizons when it signed up with First Distribution.
“They helped us to get all of our certification and to understand what being a partner is all about.
“It’s been a thrilling ride, but I wouldn’t change anything. We work purely with AWS because of the robustness of their services and the great support.
“It makes for a compelling partnership that is actually our company’s superpower. AWS allows us to punch way above our weight and compete with much bigger companies.”
For more information about Assemble, click here
About First Distribution
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