In December 2018, there was an idea to bring together the leaders in technology and entrepreneurship across Iraq. This was the start of the Iraq Technology and Entrepreneurship Alliance. Ourselves, alongside Science Camp in Basra, The Station in Baghdad, Five One Labs in Suli, and the Mosul Space in Mosul, would work together to coordinate efforts to help grow Iraq’s tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem. We’ve always known that if we wanted to making meaningful and lasting change in the region, we couldn’t do it alone.
Fast forward to April 26 & 27th 2019, and the Alliance hosted the Iraq Innovation Hackathon, the first nationwide hackathon in the country.
The hackathon showed how collaboration and innovation can respond to some of Iraq’s most pressing issues: employment, tourism, sustainability, congestion and education. The event brought together over 700 youth activists across 5 cities. From creating bicycle stands for university students to combat congestion to developing 3D projections and installations for Erbil’s Citadel to encourage tourism, the weekend was full of out of the box thinking.
“The hackathon was a huge success as it opened the eyes of many youth across the country on what can be achieved over a weekend. For most people, it was their first hackathon and it encouraged participants to think creatively and act upon their ideas for a better future for Iraq” says Zahra, our Country Manager for Iraq. The event was sponsored by GIZ and Zain, with winners receiving prizes of $1000-$3000USD.
We hosted the Erbil portion of the Hackathon at Re:Coded House. The winner of Erbil was R3; an integrated plastic recycling solution connecting citizens to recycling plants via freelance drivers. Erbil has little infrastructure to sustain a recycling ecosystem, so R3 provides a digital platform for individuals’ to make those connections themselves. R3 encourages members to recycle through gamification, allowing members to earn rewards like Zain cash or Careem credit.
The Iraq Innovation Hackathon may have been the first of its kind, but it surely won’t be the last. The ITEA continues to work together in growing the tech-ecosystem of Iraq with plans to host more events in the future!