By Emeka Aginam
By July this year, six winning teams from Middle East and Africa, MEA, will fly the continent’s flag at the world wide finals of the 2017 Microsoft Imagine Cup competition.
The competition provides opportunities for students across all disciplines to team up and use their creativity, passion, and knowledge of technology to create applications, games and integrate solutions that can change the way we live, work and play.
The Imagine Cup 2017 MEA finals had hosted 47 students in 17 teams, representing Lebanon, Jordan, West Bank & Gaza, Turkey, Tunisia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Oman, Nigeria, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.
The six teams had contested in Beirut last week with other teams from the region after which they emerged winners after showcasing their innovative solution before Microsoft judges.
With this, the six winning teams will head to Seattle, Washington, the United States of America to represent the region at the 15th Imagine Cup World finals in July where three winning teams will be awarded $100,000 USD, $25,000 USD and $15,000 USD respectively.
Although Nigerian team, Beacon from the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti did not scale through in the regional finals despite their innovative solution and impressive outing, one thing is clear. Their ability to get to the regional finals is a strong signals that software Nigeria has the capacity for global competitiveness.
Beacon is a cloud-based emergency services tool that helps users get the help they deserve quickly. It bridges the gap between technology and emergency reporting services while implementing a system of partnerships to provide emergency response infrastructure where it is lacking.
The six wining teams are expected to contest with other innovative students from other countries of the world in the global finals.
Microsoft and the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology , GIST, initiative announced the six winning teams of the Imagine Cup 2017 Middle East and Africa ,MEA, regional finals.
Six winning teams will head to Seattle to represent the region at the 15th Imagine Cup World finals in July where three winning teams will be awarded $100,000 USD, $25,000 USD and $15,000 USD respectively.
The event was held in partnership with the President of the Council of Ministers, His Excellency Mr Saad Hariri; the U.S. Department of State’s GIST initiative; and the American University of Beirut. U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, participated in the closing ceremony.
It was the culmination of a series of National final events organized by Microsoft subsidiaries in countries across the region, which brought together the brightest young minds to showcase the power of innovation.
Teams of up to three students were required to create an original technology project from start to finish – create an idea, make a plan, build the project using a component of Microsoft Azure, and compete. Unlike previous years, solutions were not bound by category requirements, but rather competed against each other without groupings or classifications.
Addressing the Imagine Cup competitors, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard said, “On behalf of the American people, I am proud that the United States government, through the Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology program, is working with Microsoft to support entrepreneurs like you around the world.
“We believe in the power of creativity and that, with a little support, ideas can become reality and transform the world around us. That is why we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in education in Lebanon and the Middle East – North Africa region over the past ten years. It is also why we invest in entrepreneurship initiatives like today’s competition, to help talented individuals test their ideas, create new models and prototypes, and launch successful businesses.”
The competition is part of Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Younan noted, adding that, “Imagine Cup inspires student developers from around the world to innovate and build solutions that enable people to do more and achieve more through technology.
“The projects we have seen at this year’s competition are indicative of the capabilities of students across the Middle East and Africa, and their potential to contribute to the region’s wealth.”
For Hoda Younan, Microsoft Lebanon Country Manager, “Through Imagine Cup, we aim to inspire student developers to create innovative solutions that change the way we live, work and play, while also growing the skills they need to pursue a future in technology.
“ Students from different universities across the MEA region formed teams, dreamt big and worked hard to create fantastic new solutions using industry-leading technologies, like Microsoft Azure, that professional developers build with every day. Today, we are here to honor their success.”
The GIST initiative engages science and technology entrepreneurs from 135 countries through a combination of in-country trainings, online interactive programs and a global pitch competition. Since 2011, GIST has engaged more than 2.8 million science and technology innovators worldwide and mentored more than 5,500 startup companies.
GIST’s comprehensive program has led the way in growing a network of aspiring entrepreneurs who are passionate about developing solutions that address economic challenges in their countries.
DocStroke from Jordan: DocStroke aims to provide the cheap technique to determine the risks of strokes using ocular image processing and machine learning that any rural medical institution could afford, so they could warn the stroke and prevent it from happening with all of its side effects, including deaths caused by the stroke.
Bl!nk from Lebanon: The project consists of a solution that gives feedback to the user on a rehearsal of a presentation or speech he is preparing
Green Jam from the United Arab Emirates: The Project aims to accelerate Dubai’s goal of being one of the world’s most sustainable cities. This is done by turning recycling into a habit for UAE citizens, through a reward system that is widely accessible from anywhere in Dubai, to all residents. Our project also solves many of the problems that Dubai’s attempts to increase recycling currently have, such as waste sorting.
Beta Team from Oman: ‘Bee’ is an app that is connected with Beacons technology for retail shops, and it aims toward understanding the context of the world around the app users. Bee aims to enhance customer experience of shoppers and empower retailers.
E-park from Morocco: E-park’s project is a web application that allows its users to find parking spaces. Their prototype uses a camera that is fixed on street lamps and spots empty/full places and users can book them or check availability in different parkings.
Team WaCoMo from Qatar: WaCoMo is a complete platform that provides interactive visualization of the water consumption happening at different outlets in a property, and in turn encouraging efficient water usage.
Team Bl!nk from Lebanon, which won the title of MEA regional champion after competing with 17 other teams, gets the opportunity to gain more experience from competing at the World Finals in Seattle. “It is our great honour to have won the MEA finals. It was a tough round and we look forward to travelling to Seattle. We are excited to have our innovative project compete against other leading projects and we hope we will be recognised on a global level,” said Rami Kalach from Team Bl!nk.