Arab programmers, academics, entrepreneurs and technology specialists have experienced exceptional years since the 2017 launch of the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The initiative trains and prepares a new generation of Arab youth to benefit from the knowledge economy and create future opportunities for themselves and their respective societies.
Within a few years, the initiative yielded results that reflect the forward-looking vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. It succeeded in gathering top-tier experienced trainers in software sciences and advanced technologies in the world to train participants from about 80 countries, embarking on a journey with five million hours of study and work, 76,000 training workshops, and 100,000 capstone projects.
The results of the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ challenge will be announced this week, with six software projects developed by Arab youth from around the world competing for the grand prize of USD1 million, thanks to the programming skills they acquired during their participation in the initiative’s courses.
Tuesday, the 24th of October 2017, will remain ingrained in the memory of millions of students and academics across the Arab world as an eventful day in the development and empowerment of Arab youth. It was the day that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid launched the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative .
Led by the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) and positioned within the framework of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), the initiative was the largest of its kind in the world aiming to teach one million young people from across the Arab world how to code and enable them to launch exceptional projects and programmes that serve Arab societies.
On that day, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid set the vision and path via a tweet on his official Twitter account, stressing that the initiative “aims to empower Arab youth with modern technology and its basic tool, which is programming, the language of the modern age.”
Since then, His Highness has foreseen the future of work and the changes that have become a reality today. He had pointed to the importance of programming and how it will open hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for young people without having to leave their home countries, allowing them to start their own businesses on the Internet and contribute to the global economy.
The launch of the initiative was a defining moment in the region that gave new hope for the future. It became a tool for building effective international partnerships and a pillar in His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s effort to revitalise Arab culture. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, the initiative was a leading platform for innovating future solutions in the fields of health, business, and community solidarity.
From the beginning, the initiative was based on practical foundations, by announcing that free training will be provided to participating Arab youth, in cooperation with top international technology companies, to refine their skills, enrich their knowledge, develop their capabilities, and build their expertise in advanced sciences.
The initiative consisted of three phases, the first of which began with the global enrolment of Arab students and trainers through the initiative’s website that also allows them to follow the curriculum through a platform specialised for virtual education. Subsequently, participants received a certificate upon completion of the educational programme, allowing them to enter the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ challenge.
The platform provided a specialised and integrated educational curriculum in computer science and programming, consisting of three-month training courses in cooperation with the most prestigious educational institutions and international companies in the field.
The ‘One Million Arab Coders’ challenge is the second stage of the initiative. It was organised at the end of each course to select the best 1,000 participants who qualified for enrolment in an advanced course in the field of programming, with a series of valuable financial prizes allocated to those who excel in this stage.
In the third phase, the best programmers were selected and rewarded with financial prizes and the best trainers were also chosen to receive financial prizes for their role in supporting the initiative in achieving its goals.
The initiative succeeded in providing the world with a pioneering model in enabling programming skills. It was adopted in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with the launch of the ‘One Million Jordanian Coders’ initiative in May 2019, with the aim of making Jordan a world leader in programming. The ‘One Million Uzbek Coders’ initiative, done in partnership between the governments of the UAE and the Republic of Uzbekistan, was announced in November 2019, with the aim of providing Uzbek youth with an opportunity to acquire programming skills, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies, to contribute to the development of innovative technology-based solutions and services.
The ‘One Million Arab Coders COVID-19 Hackathon’
In April 2020, the Dubai Future Foundation launched the ‘One Million Arab Coders COVID-19 Hackathon’ to engage Arab coders from around the world to develop innovative solutions to challenges that have emerged due to the coronavirus outbreak, such as access to healthcare services, education, social solidarity and supporting start-ups.
Teams comprising two to five members presented their solutions, and the jury selected the best 15 teams and evaluated their projects based on prototype work, economic feasibility, user experience and cost of implementation.
The solutions were presented to a committee from Dubai Future Foundation, which selected five award winning projects, which received a total of USD50,000.
Innovative Community Service Projects
Along with the announcement of the ‘One Million Arab Coders COVID-19 Hackathon’, the initiative named five winning student coders whose projects tackled some of the crucial issues facing today’s societies while bringing value to communities in countries across the Arab world. The five student coders were selected for their project proposals outlining how they would execute their fully developed mobile applications using the Android operating system to usher in change within their communities. Their solutions were reviewed based on three key criteria – boosting economic growth, providing humanitarian value, and enabling creativity and innovation.
The top five projects were: ‘Sanad’ by Farah Mahdi Khudhair, ‘3al Faraza’ by Eman Wagdy Selim, ‘Help the Poor’ by Mohamed Sobhy Abdelmageed, ‘Tammeni’ by Saeed Awad Abou Si’ah, and ‘Landmine Alert’ by Marwan Al-Hakimi.
200,000 Participants in Interactive Coders Talk Sessions
Under the initiative 32 interactive sessions were organised, led by expert programmers and other specialists as part of the Coders Talk series that aims to introduce technology enthusiasts to the latest global IT trends.
Broadcast through the initiative’s official Facebook page, the event attracted over 200,000 views from around the world to highlight the latest trends in various fields of technology and programming from the UAE, region, and the world.
The sessions covered a wide variety of topics, such as artificial intelligence, computer science, software engineering, e-commerce, data analysis, programming languages, electronic security, machine learning, cloud computing, electronic applications, the Internet of Things and communications.
Among the international experts headlining the sessions were Sebastian Thrun, Chairman and Co-Founder of Udacity, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and Member of Dubai Future Academy’s Board of Trustees; Omar Abdelkader, Full-stack Software Developer at MitchDesigns; Al Sayed Gamal, CTO, Lead Architect and Senior Software Engineer at Cognitev; Mohamed Abo-Shosha, Engineer at STC; Mohamed Osama, Software Engineer at Trella; Hadi Partovi, Founder and CEO of Code.org; Rory Preddy, Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft; Ayça Baş, Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft; and Maha Ashour, Assistant Vice President at Mashreq Bank, in addition to several initiative alumni from across the globe.
The Biggest Challenge for Arab Coders
Marking a new peak for the initiative, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid in July 2021 invited graduates to develop innovative software based on the skills and experience they acquired throughout their time in the program, in a technological competition that is the largest of its kind in the region. The winning project will be honoured with a grand prize of USD1 million, and five runners up will receive USD50,000 each.
In launching this challenge, the results of which will be announced soon, His Highness said that the focus would be on projects that serve people, transform work and life, and contribute to building stable and prosperous societies with years full of achievements.
Through its platform consisting of more than 3,600 certified trainers from around the world, the initiative has since its launch awarded more than 1,000 nanodegrees to outstanding participants, and supported those wanting to learn programming.
The reality of the Arab world formed a basic starting point for the initiative and its objectives, especially given the high unemployment rate among youth as well as the young nature of Arab societies, with approximately 50 percent of the population of the Arab world under the age of 25, and a majority of youth aspire to establish their own projects during the next five years.