Saudi students among global winners in Apple’s developer programme

The 50 winners have been invited to attend the Worldwide Developers Conference in June

Dezmond Blair, Elena Galluzzo and Jawaher Shaman, the top three winners of Apple's Swift Student Challenge. Photo: Apple
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Two students from Saudi Arabia are among the global winners in Apple’s developer programme, highlighting the region's potential in the growing technology segment.

Jawaher Shaman, the creator of the My Child app that assists people with speech conditions, is among the top three “distinguished winners” of the Swift Student Challenge, joining Elena Galluzzo from Canada and US-based Dezmond Blair.

A total of 50 distinguished winners were chosen, from a pool of 350 winning submissions, and they have been invited to attend Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference, which runs from June 10 to 14 at its headquarters in California.

Ms Shaman's app was inspired by her struggle with stuttering, which she developed at age five and became debilitating.

“Coding for me opened up a world of possibilities … I hope to use technology to help children who are neurodivergent because I know what it’s like to feel different,” said Ms Shaman, who plans to work as a programmer in Saudi Arabia.

The other Saudi winner, Afrah bin Jubayr, developed Fin's Adventure, an app focused on saving the environment.

Her “coding skills in hand” led to create “a meaningful game to raise awareness”, she told The National.

Ms Shaman and Ms Bin Jubayr, both 27 and from Riyadh, are enrolled at the Apple Developer Academy in the Saudi capital, which was opened in 2022 – the first in the Middle East and North Africa, and which focuses on female developers.

They also follow in the footsteps of Sabrina Sales, a Filipino based in Abu Dhabi who has twice won Apple's programme.

The 2024 winners “once again demonstrate the breadth and depth of what is possible when talented young people use coding to make their mark on the world”, Susan Prescott, vice president of worldwide developer relations at Apple, said.

The global app market continues to grow, and app marketplaces have rolled out several initiatives to attract coders to help expand their digital offerings.

Apple opened its first developer academy in Brazil in 2013, and the company now has 18 around the world, the latest of which opened in Bali, Indonesia, last month.

The iPhone-maker is confident that its student developer programme will continue to hone more talent in the Middle East and contribute to the growth of start-ups and entrepreneurship, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, said during her visit to Dubai in 2023.

Apple does not provide region-specific figures for its academies, but globally, these institutions have helped students to create more than 1,500 apps and establish more than 160 companies, according to the company's latest data.

Governments in the region, led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are also recognising its importance.

Dubai, for instance, launched the One Million Arab Coders initiative in 2017 and a challenge programme in 2021, seeking the best talent among the youth’s ranks and equipping them with the skills needed for the future.

Unboxing the new MacBook Air with M3 chip

Unboxing the new MacBook Air with M3 chip

“The vitality of the region in general and everything going on [within the developer community] is impressive,” Ms Jackson had told The National.

The Apple App Store is part of its strong services segment. The company on Thursday reported that total revenue from its services division in its fiscal first quarter grew about 14 per cent annually to almost $23.9 billion, which was a record.

Apple also announced its largest share buyback programme, worth $110 billion, after reporting an annual drop in its March quarter net profit and revenue.

Updated: May 04, 2024, 7:11 AM