The Digital Arabic Content (DAC) Competitions launched by UN-ESCWA during June-July of 2008 laid a foundation for innovation and unlocked an opportunity for university graduates and young entrepreneurs to realize their ideas in the DAC domain. The competitions drew in over 55 applications from participating countries; Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Yemen on a variety of subjects including software for Arabic language processing and websites offering services for such domains as education, culture, employment, tourism as well as e-commerce.
The partnerships established with technology incubators in the respective countries were key in realizing the competitions and tightly knitting activities during the evaluation stages. The selection process was conducted on a national basis by evaluation committees including UN-ESCWA representatives, the partner incubator and selected renowned technical and business experts from the respective countries. Two stages were in effect in each country; the first included a grading of submitted proposals to select only a limited number with a passing grade for entering the second stage, which was essentially a face-to-face interview with applicant teams to select the final winners.
“Alf Mile” was selected as winner of the incubation award in Lebanon aiming to develop a regional, interactive educational game on the countries and cultures of the Arab world. The project will be incubated at Berytech. In Jordan, the Jordan Innovation Centre at Philadelphia University will incubate the “Arab Entrepreneur” website as a first winner and “Itqan”; a tool for automatic generation of cases in software testing, as a second winner of the competition.
The “Arabic Optical Character Recognition System” project was found to be the best applying to the competition in Palestine and was selected for incubation at the Palestine Information and Communication Technology Incubator (PICTI). In Syria, two projects were selected as winners for incubation at the Syrian Computer Society - Information and Communication Technology Incubator: an “Automatic Text-to-Speech Engine”; which will recognize Arabic text for conversion into speech and “academia.sy” - an interactive portal providing educational services and media information for students and institutions of higher education.
Witnessing the largest number of applications, the competition in Yemen concluded with three winners: “Aden Tourism Portal” providing a range of tourism services on Aden, the “Electronic Mediator” which acts as an online mediator for services such as employment, project funding and real estate, and the “E-Learning” project which provides comprehensive educational management services. All three projects will be incubated at the Aden ICT Incubator.
During the awarded incubation period, the winning teams will work to develop their projects into viable prototypes on the basis of which they will establish their own enterprises. Technical support, business advice, marketing guidance, and training will be offered by the incubators as part of the award and utilizing the financial contribution supplied by UN-ESCWA.