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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Hajj Hackathon to modernise the holy pilgrimage 

The Saudi government will award millions in prizes for the best software ideas

The Saudi government has teamed up with Google to launch the first Hajj Hackathon, in which they ask for proposals on ways to help to modernise the holy pilgrimage.

The competition will focus on improving Hajj services in food sanitation, finance, transportation, accommodation, communications and crowd management for the estimated two million pilgrims who travel to Saudi Arabia each year.

The hackathon is attracting leading programmers from around the world to use technology and innovation to enrich the experience for those going on Hajj, according to the Centre of Communications in Saudi Arabia.

"This event is one of the most important things for a country that has great ambition to become the gateway to technology in the Middle East," Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, during the event's opening ceremony.

The event is offering cash prizes to the top three participants, amounting to two million Saudi riyals (Dh1.96m) to transform their ideas into application-based solutions.

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The event, organised by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, will be the largest hackathon competition held to date in the Middle East.

More than 3,000 applicants will take part in the three-day event in Jeddah.

Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder, said success is not about imitating others but about innovation and the creation and development of ideas, and that for private enterprise to succeed, you have to work hard and "you must love what you do".

This event is part of the kingdom's commitment to stimulating innovation and reaching regional and global leadership under the objectives of Vision 2030.

Saud bin Abdullah Al Qahtani, advisor at the Royal Court and an official responsible for organising the event, said Saudi “aims to devise technical solutions that contribute to enriching and improving the experience of pilgrims”.

He said one of the smart things about the effectiveness of this event is its idea is to meet and think about things to improve the experience of millions of pilgrims.