Since its launch in 2017, the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative has transformed from an inspiring idea launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, into a real tool for change. The initiative has transformed the lives of many and created a better future for hundreds of thousands of young people in the Arab world, and each of them has become a success story, proving that knowledge and ability of possessing tools of the future makes a difference in the lives of individuals and societies.
The initiative, launched to embody the belief of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid in the dreams of Arab youth and their ability to positively contribute to the development of their societies, left its impact from Egypt to Morocco, through Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq, and all the way to Yemen and Libya. The initiative succeeded in achieving its first and most important goal, which is to empower more than a million young men and women with skills in coding, the language of the future, preparing programmers for the labor market and encouraging them to turn their ideas into technological projects that enhance their contribution to the development of society and make them active members in the industry of the future.
Part of the initiative are many inspirational stories told by graduates of ‘One Million Arab Coders’, success stories that share a common denominator: the endless giving of the United Arab Emirates, which knows no boundaries, and the determination to succeed that does not know the impossible. These experiences confirm the pivotal role of the UAE in leading the development and digitization process in the Arab region with technological projects made by Arab citizens that serve humanity, enhance the quality of life and contribute to building stable and prosperous societies as well as the future.
A Life-changing advertisement
From Syria to Jordan to Turkey, this is how the journey of Mahmoud Shahoud, the Syrian refugee engineer, began after the war forced him to leave his country in search of a better life. He experienced a moment that changed his career, opened new horizons, and gave him hope for a better tomorrow. “In 2018, I saw an advertisement on Facebook about the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative, so I participated because I wanted to build my knowledge in the field of website development, which had one of my lesser interests in previous years,” Shahoud says.
The unique presentation in the programme’s content enabled him to overcome the obstacle of learning web development, The new skills he gained helped Shahoud develop the Habit 360 application, which enables people to build new habits in their lives, track their accomplishments and feelings, and provides sufficient support to motivate them to change their lives for the better.
Creating better opportunities for thousands of women
Another notable success story is that of Eman Wajdi from Egypt. Working long hours in an office away from her home and children has always been difficult for Wajdi. So she was forced to spend nine years at home to take care of her children while doing various manual and household chores to support her family alongside her husband.
But everything changed after she participated in the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative in 2017. “At that time, I was working during the day on my home project to prepare food and deliver it to customers, and only after putting my children to bed I would start studying late at night,” Wajdi said.
“I really learned a lot from the initiative, as I gained website and mobile application development skills that helped me transform my small business into a project that I manage using a mobile application.”
Wajdi expanded her project to the rest of Egypt, and more than 9,000 requests were submitted from Egyptian women to help her prepare food, in a real-world example of the ability of innovative solutions to change the course of the lives ofthose who initiate them, as well as the lives of the thousands around them.
Future of Engineering
Perhaps the story of Ammar Salem, a professor at the University of Baghdad’s College of Architecture, provides another example of how the initiative demonstrated the ability of the will to change reality. For Salem, the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative was a realistic translation of what he had imagined for years.
Although he was learning drawing and calligraphy at the time, he was also learning electronics and making models of aircraft. Salem was always looking to learn how to make 2D and 3D design programs, after having spent years using them.
Salem had the perfect opportunity to learn programming when the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative was announced., “I rushed to join it and was one of the first students in the course. My joy was indescribable when I learned how to make my first programme on Android.“
Thanks to the initiative, Salem has so far developed more than seven programmes and electronic games. They include the ‘My Speaking Reading’ programme, which drew more than 200,000 users in one year; the “A Cube” game, which is dedicated to developing the skill of imagination; and the ‘Talking Fingers’ sign language programme which Salem developed, which helps the deaf to write and pronounce all letters and words by pointing with only two fingers in front of a device that converts those signs into spoken letters and words.
The ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative seeks to bring about a change in the attitudes of an entire generation, by transforming the million coders into a scientific base that in turn transfers knowledge to the region and raises the capabilities of those around them. This is indeed what has been achieved by Libyan Omaima Kilani, who describes herself as an “advocate of girls in Libya.”
Kilani graduated from the initiative and obtained a “Nanodegree” certificate, after which she founded the SheCode charity, which empowers girls by teaching them programming.
Her dream did not stop there. After obtaining the certificate, she focused her efforts on trying to eradicate technical illiteracy in her country, and founded the “Ummy” platform, which teaches young men and women programming and business management.
Programming to Save a Life
Programming is not only a means of self-realization, providing new job opportunities or increasing income, but it can actually save human lives. This is precisely what was experienced by Yemeni Marwan Al-Hakimi, one of the first graduates of the initiative, whose new acquaintances enabled him to develop seven free language learning applications.
Thanks to the programming skills he gained, Al-Hakimi explains that he “worked on developing another application to solve the landmine problem in Yemen, by warning passersby of areas where landmines are spread, and inviting the relevant authorities to comb and clean the area.”
His experience in searching for ways to save the lives of others through programming is not different from the experience of Rayan Al-Marbahi, a Lebanese young man who lives in the UAE, and who turned his graduation from the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative into an opportunity to save the lives of patients who need organ transplants.
Al-Marbahi worked on the development of Dhonor application, which uses blockchain technology to organize the organ donation process, eliminate illicit organ trade and connect donors with patient beneficiaries. He is currently cooperating with the UAE Ministry of Health in this field.
Investing in Education
The story of Palestinian Amin Abu Dyak is also one of the inspiring experiences. Three months after his graduation from the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative, he created the “Jusoor” platform that provides world class educational curricula for students in the West Bank, through virtual reality classrooms.
Abu Dyak is currently cooperating with the UAE Ministry of Education to develop virtual reality education projects in the country.
Hope for the Disabled
The experience of the Moroccan Hassiba Mensett, who has a disability, highlights the importance of empowering all members of society to attain sustainable and comprehensive development. She had lost her sight since she was young, which made her face the problem of unemployment due to the limited job opportunities available to persons with disabilities like herself.
The ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative allowed Mensett to develop new skills, which gave her a competitive advantage over her peers in the labor market. Mensett says that “her capabilities have developed a lot and she was able to obtain a Nanodegree scholarship.”
These real-life stories are just a quick look at a number of pioneering experiences that changed the lives of their protagonists and people around them, and opened up new horizons and unique opportunities for them to enhance their skills and develop opportunities through programming. The stories embody the vision of the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative, which was launched to achieve a clear goal: enabling a new generation of Arab youth to benefit from the knowledge economy and create future opportunities for themselves and their communities.