Innovation Teams Generate Common Good Solutions

Published Apr-23-17

The development of a nifty app for crowdsourcing the digitization of Arab text while also providing users with money earning opportunities.

New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), United Arab Emirates

The Story:

Innovation Teams Generate Common Good Solutions Every year, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) organizes a three-day global hackathon, inviting students and mentors from all over the world to come up with ideas to benefit the common good. It is a great example of how open innovation can bring together smart minds to spark off each other and devise solutions for a range of social issues.

Among the other goals of this creative marathon are to promote tech startups and innovations in computer science.

NYUAD Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World

The 2016 event saw more than a hundred students from 36 countries flex their creative muscles at the NYUAD Institute in Abu Dhabi, splitting into fifteen multidisciplinary teams. This combination of different perspectives and disciplines is a powerful way to ignite innovation.

While the students worked to a broad brief, all the ideas had to have a value in society whether in education, science, entertainment or other fields. To help them in their endeavors, they could call on the assistance of mentors that included computer science professors, venture capitalists, technology professionals and founders of successful startups.

The hackathon culminated with each team spending five minutes presenting their projects to the judges and taking questions from them.

Open Innovation Winner

The range of ideas was enormous, and the winning concept was Arabic Snippets or Quasat, a mobile app for crowdsourcing Arabic text digitization. It can be used to create digital Arabic content from rare books and other material that is not currently searchable digitally. The app breaks down images of printed books into smaller chunks - snippets - for app users who then type and submit them back to the app. Participants earn cash for their content submissions.

"Arabic Snippets is such a delightful idea because it's aimed at utilizing the latest tech trends for sustainable social impact," said winning team member William Held. "This weekend presented clearly to me how powerful it is to bring bright tech minds together with the biggest societal issues in the Arab world."

The team consisted of Arab and international students from universities in UAE, Morocco, Jordan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

Some of the hackathon's other noteworthy ideas were an online translator for informal Arabic and English, a personal digital assistant application for refugees, called Sadiki, and an app that can measure room capacity to lessen casualties during stampedes.

In addition to prize money, the hackathon was a valuable exercise for the student innovators, encouraging them to solve problems through collaborations across borders and disciplines.

Turning Ideas into Solutions

According to reports, the winning team were approached by investors to realize their concept.

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