By Sherif Tawfik, Country General Manager, Microsoft Bahrain and Oman
While the youth population in the Arab world is burgeoning, they also face many challenges, including lack of education and unemployment. At the same time, I am constantly amazed at the great technical talent our youth possess, and I think that’s the key to working around the challenges they face. Innovation and entrepreneurship are key elements to give this generation a competitive advantage and help create jobs for them, and the best way to promote these skills is to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in our youth. I believe the Microsoft Imagine Cup is a program that can really help to fulfil this.
The Imagine Cup is part of our YouthSpark initiative and is a technology program and competition targeting students between the ages of 16 and 24 as a means of expanding their technical knowledge and uncovering new talent.
I am so excited to share that the second Imagine Cup Pan Arab Finals will be taking place in Manama, Bahrain from 31 May to 3 June 2015. Since the first competition in 2003, we have seen great interest coming from Arab students, and several of them have gone on to win challenge awards and even be named among the top three winners. So the addition of a Pan Arab Finals round, held for the first time last year in Qatar, makes sense to encourage even more students to participate, showcase their talent and represent the Arab nation.
This year, more than 35 national teams from around the Arab world will travel to Bahrain to participate in the Pan Arab Finals. Over the years the Imagine Cup has become a quest for young talent and our youth continue to surprise and inspire us. We are proud not only to support a new season, but also to have the finals take place in our the Kingdom of Bahrain so that we can witness this talent and innovation firsthand.”
It’s no exaggeration to mention the vast technical talent coming from our region. Just last year, two Arab teams were recognised at the Worldwide Finals in Seattle, both taking third place spots. Team Butterfly from Bahrain won in the Innovation category for their project combining hardware and software to enable the creation of custom nail polish colours on demand. Using the project’s app, users can choose from colour swatches or specify their own custom colour, as well as select a glossy, matte or glitter finish. The hardware then mixes the pigments and the finish and delivers enough nail polish for a single application. Team Illogic from Egypt won in the Games category for their Windows 8 puzzle game, Puppy in Bubble. The story of the game is about Spot, a puppy who gets lost and trapped in a bubble, and needs to be returned to his owner, Adam. Users must use fans, vacuum cleaners and other environmental objects to reunite Spot with Adam. Many other Arab teams have also won challenge awards, including teams from Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt.
The Imagine Cup features three main competitions: World Citizenship, which focuses the software application with the greatest potential to make a positive impact on humanity; Games, looking for the most engaging and entertaining games targeting the youth; and Innovation, focusing on giving consumers inspiration and innovation at their fingertips. All apps and games must make use of Microsoft platforms, tools and technology.
Our aim through YouthSpark and the Imagine Cup is to inspire student developers to create innovative solutions that can change the way we live, work and play, while at the same time growing the skills they need for a successful career in technology. I encourage all students to form teams, register and work hard to make it to the Pan Arab Finals and beyond.
To find out more about the Imagine Cup or follow the action as these talented students bring their ideas to life, visit http://www.imaginecup.com/panarabwww.imaginecup.com.