Youth Drive Digital Disruption at GITEX Technology Week

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As increased Internet connectivity, time spent online, and social media usage spawn huge growth in regionally-produced mobile apps,the shortlist for this year’s Student Lab competition – a specialist competition for innovative mobile app projects sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs and held in association with Google– reveals pioneering regional youth are championing digital disruption across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA).

With the region’s technology sector rapidly advancing, GCC countries lead the MEASA region in the World Economic Forum’s global connectivity rankings, including Qatar (No. 23), UAE (No. 24), Bahrain (No. 29), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (No. 32), and Oman (No. 40);while Kuwait (No. 72) places in the top half of countries, according to the organization’s Networked Readiness Index 2014.

Strong region-wide smartphone penetration has resulted in more than 22% of Arabs using social media – equating to 82 million Facebook users and 5.8 million active Twitter users across the Arab world, according to the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government’s 6thArab Social Media Report 2014.

The UAE’s digital-savvy youth has helped domestic entries represent 50% of the 10-strong shortlist for the Student Lab competition, which is being held at GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK, the region’s largest ICT event. More than 50 local, regional, and international university students submitted nominations, with the remaining shortlisted contenders hailing from as far afield as Nigeria and India.

“Youth across the regionare more than digital consumers – they are shaping the digital age by leveraging mobile apps and social media to actively change how people, businesses and governments interact,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice President, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the organiser of GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK. “The Student Lab supports student technology innovators and gives recognition to the pioneering minds shaping the region’s future digital landscape.”

The six UAE-based students’ projects in the Student Lab shortlist include Cancer Community (UAE-University of Wollongong), Digital Signal Processing (UAE-Khalifa University), myVOW: my Voluntary Organization Work (UAE – Khalifa University), Smart Building (UAE-Al Ain University of Science and Technology), and Augmented Reality (India’s BITS Pilani, Dubai campus).

Additional shortlisted entries include Accident Intimation System for GPS (Oman – Al Musanna College of Technology), Combatting Fake Drugs and Children’s Mortality (Nigeria – ObafemiAwolowo University), Data Visualization Platform (Nigeria – University of Ilorin), and Protect Me for Women’s Safety (India – IIT).

Student Lab winners, who will all retain their intellectual property rights, will be announced at the Student Lab Awards on 16 October 2014. To help implement their projects, the top three winners will receive cash prizes and present to a wide range of decision-makers in the innovation lifecycle.

At the inaugural Student Lab competition in 2013, a team from Al-Najah National University in Palestine won for their Android-based home automation mobile application, aimed at empowering physically disabled people.

Abdel WahedBendaoua, Google, said: “We saw a strong turnout in last year’s Student Lab competition which we are supporting again to foster a love of learning and to enable students’ innovative designs to make a real-life impact. The region is proving to be a hub for technological creativity, and we are eager to see what the shortlisted candidates at the GITEX Student Lab Awards have to present this time”.

Running under the theme ‘Re-Imagining our Future’, GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK 2014 is set to attract more than 100,000 ICT professionals and over 3,700 exhibitors from 61 countries.The show will be held from 12-16 October at DWTC.

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