First Hackathon for Women Developers in Beirut

Alexis Baghdadi, Nov 25 2015

Mobile apps present a rich field of opportunity for developers in the MENA. According to the Top App Trends report by ArabNet Business Intelligence, women in the MENA are the biggest consumers of apps when it comes to lifestyle, health and fitness, music, education, shopping, and other categories.

In fact, the report found there are almost four times more app categories preferred by women than there are for men (namely: games and sports).

Of course, women aren’t limited to the consumer end of the app world – after all, who better to design an app for women than a women themselves? Although they currently represent less than 25% of developers worldwide, women developers have a future in the app economy. The anonymity of app developers actually plays in women’s favor, so they are not head-on against traditional gender biases in traditional workplaces.

All that women need is the right venue and a little encouragement.

“She Develops” Hackathon

This is what Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC) Lebanon Chapter and IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) Lebanon Section set out to prove on November 21, 2015 with “She Develops”, the first women-only hackathon in Lebanon, targeting female university students and young professionals.

The event was organized in partnership with Wamda and ArabNet, and sponsored by the Computer Science Department at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Google Developers Launchpad, IEE, and the Lebanese app development startup, FOO Systems.

On the day of the hackathon, the AUB welcomed 45 young female professionals and students from 7 Lebanese universities with various technology backgrounds.

Prior to the hackathon day, the future developers were enrolled in 3 free workshops provided by a team from FOO Systems. The workshops covered business ideation, Java programming, and Android app development.

The participants were divided into 10 teams and asked to develop Android apps based on one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Each team had to identify a problem and devise a solution for it.

At the end of the day, the teams presented their apps to a judging panel that included: Hala Fadel, Partner at Leap Ventures; Abdallah Absi, CEO at Zoomal, Reine Abbas, co-founder of Wixel Sudios; Rami Moughabghab, Business Development Manager at FOO Systems; and Racha Ghamlouch, Senior Program Manager at ArabNet.

The competition was very exciting, and the judges said the solutions they had to judge were really advanced and on-target.

And the Winners Are…

  • 1st Prize: "The Notifier"

This app aims at notifying pre-selected contacts in smartphone users’ contact list, in the event of a potentially dangerous situation they may find themselves in. When the user’s smartphone is violently shaken, the app is supposed to alert these contacts and send them a live-recorded sound along with a notification message (MMS).

The developing team earned tickets to ArabNet Beirut 2016, summer internships at FOO Systems, office hours with experts from Wamda to help them move forward with their idea, and up to $500 matched funding from Zoomaal if they decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign for their app.

  • 2nd Prize: "Baby Health"

This app provides concerned parents with a tool to automate their children’s vaccination planning and remind them about upcoming vaccines.

The developing team also earned tickets to ArabNet Beirut 2016, and up to $300 matched funding from Zoomaal if they decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign for their app.

  • 3rd Prize: Blood for Life

This app connects blood donors with families of patients that are in urgent need of blood. The app performs filtering by blood type and will support filtering by geolocation. It will also remind users to donate to the blood bank every 3 months. 

The developing team earned up to $300 matched funding from Zoomaal if they decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign for their app.

  • Honorable Mention: Trash Bonus

The team behind this app was acknowledged for coming up with the “most innovative solution”. The app tackles Lebanon’s trash crisis by connecting households with recycling institutions, giving them the opportunity to earn cash for their recyclable waste.

The remaining 7 teams tackled problems such as access to education, insufficient donation channels, and traffic congestion. Zoomal offered to match up to $100 in donations if any of these teams decided to launch crowdfunding campaigns for their app on its site.

See related:

What It Takes for Arab Women to Succeed in Technology

The Top App Categories in the MENA – ArabNet App Trends Report

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