Increased visitor rates, stampedes, accidents and heavy criticism has led the Saudi Kingdom to host its first ever Hajj Hackathon.
To crowd source solutions to a growing list of problems and enhance the overall pilgrimage experience.
In the past few years, Saudi Arabia has suffered multiple complaints and mishaps during the annual major religious event. Issues such as the 2015 stampede, which killed up to 2,300 worshippers, are top of mind for the kingdom as they move forward with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernization efforts.
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The 36-hour hackathon, where participants compete against each other to create problem solving software, hosted by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones was a huge success.
With nearly 3,000 programmers in attendance, Saudi Arabia also celebrated breaking the Guinness World Record for “Most Participants in a Hackathon.”
رسميًا؛ #السعودية تحتضن أكبر هاكاثون حول العالم.#هاكاثون_الحج#هاكاثون_الحج_في_موسوعة_جينيس pic.twitter.com/P2CO6Ld195
— الاتحاد السعودي للأمن السيبراني والبرمجة والدرونز (@SAFCSP) August 2, 2018
Hajj Hackathon Winners
In the weekend, the first ever Hajj Hackathon ended with an exciting note after 3 days of heavy coding. Finalists pitched their products to a panel of local and international experts. The panel included Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher, and RiseUp’s Abdelhameed Sharara.
Winning the main prize was all-female Saudi team Turjuman, whose app will help pilgrims translate signboards to any language offline. A simple and intuitive solution, the app only asks for QR codes to be installed on important signs which can be read and translated by the app.
The Hajj pilgrimage includes people from various different countries, some of which may not speak or read Arabic.
The team won 1 million Saudi Riyals, over $265,000 USD, for 15% equity in their application.
Egypt came in second place with team Hajj Wallet, “Mahfazat Hajj.” The fintech solution will allow pilgrims to pay for different products and services during Hajj or Umrah using only their mobile phones.
A common issue during Hajj or Umrah is the loss of cash and broken payment terminals. The solution will also use QR codes to make transactions, and allows users to transfer money to friends and family.
The Hajj Wallet team won 500,000 Saudi Riyals for a 10% equity investment.
You can watch the closing ceremony here.
The prizes also included free tickets to Google’s IO 2019 Developers Conference, Google Home Mini with the Google Assistant built in, Google Cloud Credit, and free tickets for RiseUp Summit 2018.