JEDDAH: More than 3,000 developers and programmers from all over the world gathered at Jeddah’s International Exhibition and Convention Center on Tuesday for the start of the “Hajj Hackathon.”
The three-day event, believed to be one of the biggest of its kind in the Middle East, tasks participants with creating technology and applications that will help make the Hajj experience easier and more enjoyable for pilgrims.
The information technology experts and enthusiasts — mostly from the Kingdom, the UAE, the USA, Algeria, Egypt, India, Japan, Tunisia, Turkey and Pakistan — spent the first day meeting each other, forming teams and sharing ideas, before work began on creating programs for the event’s competition.
There was also a discussion titled “KSA is the gateway for advanced technology,” featuring guests including: Abdullah Amer Al-Sawah, the minister of communications and information technology; Abdulrahman bin Mutrib, the executive vice president of Al-Tayyar; Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer; and Essam Al-Thukair, deputy governor of the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monshaat).
“Monshaat is participating in this event in cooperation with the Saudi Federation for Cyber Security, Programming (SAFCSP),” said Al-Thukair. “This official partnership aims to create an innovative environment that supports the young talents and creates opportunities for them, and to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030.”
“We are pleased to announce that we will allocate 20 seats in business incubators to the best developers, underscoring the interest in supporting the digital transformation and innovation that contribute to the Kingdom’s growth in small and medium enterprises.”
Wozniak, who founded Apple with the late Steve Jobs, said: “Thousands of people are participating here trying to be useful and productive. One of the most powerful points of being here is to help the community … as the country has one of the greatest missions: Hajj.”
The Hackathon is also helping to empower Saudi women by giving them a chance to showcase their educational and technical expertise in programming, to serve their country and the world.
The event continues until Thursday, when the winning ideas will be announced. The top three will receive a share of prizes valued at SR2,000,000 ($533,000) to help transform their ideas into businesses. First place will receive SR1,000,000, second place SR500,000 and third place SR350,000.
Additionally, SR150,000 will be awarded as a prize for excellence.
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