New data reveals legacy of 'One Million Arab Coders' initiative

More than one million Arabs from 80 countries clocked five million hours of study

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, attends the announcement of the winner of One Million Arab Coders Challenge in May. Photo: @HamdanMohammed via Twitter
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New user data from online education platform Udacity shows the major impact of the One Million Arab Coders initiative in bridging the digital skills gap among Arab youths.

More than one million Arabs from 80 countries clocked five million hours of study to learn computer programming from experienced trainers in software sciences and advanced technologies.

They took part in 76,000 training workshops over the four-year initiative, making it the largest initiative of its kind to train Arab youth with 21st century skills.

Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation, which led the initiative, said the programme met its “key aim” of “facilitating the access of more than one million young Arabs with free digital courses to future-proof their skills and drive their nations' digital economy”.

There is a critical need to equip more people for the jobs of the future. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that 1.1 billion jobs are likely to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade.

The World Economic Forum predicted an overall net positive between job growth and decline but warned of underinvestment in what it calls “lifelong learning”.

Currently, only 0.5 per cent of global GDP is invested towards this type of professional development. Wide-scale investment in re-skilling has the potential to boost GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030, the WEF reported.

One Million Arab Coders is part of Mohammed bin Rashid Global Initiatives and concluded last month with a competition for a winning software project.

Mahmoud Shahoud, a 32 year-old Syrian refugee who resettled in Turkey, clinched the $1 million prize for his app, Habit360.

He took advantage of the offer of free training in coding after seeing the competition on Facebook in 2018 and used the skills he learnt to develop the app, which enables people to build better habits in their lives and track their accomplishments and feelings.

Mr Shahoud told The National that half of his winnings would go towards helping children orphaned by the Syrian civil war and that he plans to relocate to Dubai to establish his start-up.

He said the app has attracted more than 200,000 organic installs on the Google Play store and that he plans to release a version for the Apple App Store. Currently a one-person team, Mr Shahoud plans to make his first hire in the coming months.

Sheikh Hamdan announces the winner of the One Million Arab Coders Challenge: in pictures

Updated: June 24, 2022, 2:55 AM