RIYADH: Ever since the first all-women Apple Developer Academy in the Middle East opened its doors in Riyadh in February, Saudi and Arab women have had the opportunity to develop their programming skills and contribute to the iOS app economy, and are now producing designs for finance, education and the tourism industry.
“As a Saudi woman who cares about technology, I can say that Apple did an amazing job to support Saudis and Arab women by bringing the first all-women Apple Developer Academy to the Middle East,” said Fay Al-Shiban, a student at the institution.
Al-Shiban is also one of the winners of the Worldwide Developers Conference 2022, or the WWDC22-Swift Student Challenge. The initiative enabled students to showcase their design skills by creating a Swift Playgrounds app project in any industry of their choice.
The academy in the Kingdom received lots of attention following a video announcement during the WWDC Conference, when Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and board member, spoke about the initiative in Riyadh.
“In Saudi Arabia we launched our first developer academy for women in February, our entrepreneurship camps provide developers from under-represented communities with mentorship, inspiration and insights from Apple,” said Cook.
Partnered with the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, represented by Tuwaiq Academy and Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, the program officially welcomed its students in February for a nine-month intensive coding program.
Despite many worldwide programs being held remotely, the Riyadh-based academy students attended the sessions completely in-person.
“The first time I found out that Apple was opening an academy in Riyadh I got excited,” Al-Shiban said. “I’ve always wanted to develop my skills on app development and there’s not a better way to do it than in an Apple Developer Academy. Apple is my role model when it comes to creativity and I want to become a world-class app developer.”
The programmer said she received an immense amount of support when she was accepted into the program.
Sara Al-Ghamdi, a student and apprentice developer, is currently working to create an app that will contribute to the Kingdom’s tourism industry. “I’m currently working with my team to develop a tourism-based app to promote and spread awareness about various tourist locations in Saudi Arabia.”
“Apple’s constant efforts to provide new tools and programs for app development has really made life easier for fellow developers like me … it ensures that my app, which is under development, can be made more user-friendly, user-engaging and ultimately increase the app-reach amongst people,” she said.
Lina Ismail, another student, aims to take the skills she has learned to help her community. “I enrolled in the academy’s program because I always wanted to make a positive impact in the community and somehow improve the lives of upcoming generations,” said Ismail.
Ismail is currently working on her application called Naeem, which will help people save money. “My inspiration for creating this app came from my experience living alone far from my family and having to manage all my expenses while also saving a bit of money,” she explained.
The application studies the spending habits of users, including where money is being spent. “Then using machine learning it will give you suggestions and special personalized offers,” she said.
“Apple Developers Academy taught me how to find a niche idea and turn it into a business. I had a mentor who supported me along and helped me pitch the idea to big investors from Saudi Central Bank and Saudi Fintech,” Ismail said, revealing that her app was now being tested on the App Store.
Student Maryam Arif said the academy helped her see the wide range of business possibilities. “What is great about the program is the infinite options of projects you can create! You can work in any field you wish,” she said.
Arif chose to create an expense-management application for the financial sector called E-pockets. “The idea came from the amount of receipts and warranties one person gathers during (a lifetime) and needs to keep.”
“The app idea and development was so revolutionary, it impressed our Apple reviewers as they came to realize this was the first time such an app was being executed,” she said.
The academy helps with skills development but also assists in bringing the apps to the marketplace, with support for enhancements such as design, Arif said.