App for Syrian refugee job-seekers among winners at Abu Dhabi hackathon

Eighty of the brightest students from universities across the globe participated in the hackathon's seventh edition.

Khalid Alawar (right) chats after his hack team,Teslam, won the audience award at the NYUAD Hackathon for social good in the Arab World in Abu Dhabi.  Delores Johnson /  The National / April 16, 2017
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ABU DHABI // An app that helps Syrian refugees find jobs in Turkey and a device that limits water consumption were named winners at the New York University Abu Dhabi Hackathon.

Eighty students from universities across the globe participated in the seventh edition of the event.

Ten teams were given 72 hours to produce technology that promotes a social good.

With the Hiat application, recruiters and businesses in Turkey can search for jobseekers with experience of trades such as plumbing, tailoring or other professions. They are connected to a registered Syrian refugee who can do that job.

The service also translates the job offer into Arabic.

The mechanism is intended to support well-educated workers who have lost their jobs and homes as a result of the conflict in their country.

“If I am a Turkish citizen and want someone to come to my house and fix the TV, I log on to Hiat, I submit a form and it goes to the user database,” said Camilo Luciano, from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina.

He demonstrated how the app worked with team member Amr Al Jundi, a Syrian student at the American University of Sharjah.

Mr Al Jundi received a message from Hiat informing him of the job offer, “so I expect a message telling in Arabic the job description”, he said.

“As soon as he accepts the job, I receive a message, and he comes and fixes it, and at that moment my credit card is charged,” Mr Luciano said.

For the refugee to get paid for the job, he scans the bar code of any service or product he wishes to buy and sends it to Hiat. The application then pays the bill.

“They are paid through wallet systems, because refugees don’t have bank accounts,” he said.

Hiat won first place.

An automated nursing application, 3ndi Headache (I Have A Headache) won second place for reducing the response time for triage nursing.

Team members tried calling a triage service at a local clinic and the process took 17 minutes.

“So we made a robot automated system – Dr Fatima – that would ask the caller for the symptoms,” said Hayat Al Hassan, a student at NYUAD.

“Through neurolinguistic programming and voice recognition, we built a simple decision-making system that would analyse the symptoms and diagnose,” she said.

It also works simultaneously between Arabic and English and therefore accepts code switching, as indicated by the app’s name.

“The difference is that you get to describe it [the problem] the way you want to...” she said.

An Nahr, an interactive hardware/software solution, limits the amount of water used per ablution at mosques.

“Twenty to 30 litres of water are used per day for ablution for the five prayers,” said Seyed Mohammad, a student at NYUAD.

But the team found that the amount of water needed is much less if the person does not keep the water running during the process.

“When the water flows, our chip – placed on the tap – gets the fluoride from the sensor, calculates the water coming out of the tap.” A red light appears when the water exceeds the amount.

They shared the third place prize with the Tarakeeb app, which helps children to master Arabic.

The audience award went to Teslam for the team’s goal of developing a chat bot that will share information with governments and educate the public on non-communicable diseases.

Sana Odeh, a professor of computer science and founder of the NYUAD Hackathon, said over the years they had witnessed outstanding results.

“A hackathon is usually a practice for students. Usually 1 per cent succeed, but here 100 per cent have succeeded.”