JEDDAH: Hajj Expo 2023 concluded with the winner’s announcement of the Hajj and Umrah Challenge, which witnessed the participation of 300 teams from around the world, aiming to create the best technical projects to serve pilgrims.
The challenge began on Jan. 4 and has brought together programmers and innovators to create technical solutions to the challenges facing the Hajj and Umrah system and develop services that facilitate the journey of pilgrims coming to Makkah and Madinah from around the world.
The challenge focuses on providing innovative solutions through six tracks — providing information related to the pilgrimage journey, food and hospitality, services for people with disabilities, waste recycling, and baggage transportation, in addition to guiding the lost.
The first stage of the challenge ended with the participation of about 800 contestants; 11 teams were selected to qualify for the final stage, where only five winning teams were selected for five innovative ideas.
The first-place winning team won SR50,0000 ($13,000) for their creative application titled: Makkah Story.
Raghad Al-Shareef, the leader of the team consisting of three participants, and a graduate of business administration from Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, told Arab News: “Makkah Story application focuses on highlighting Makkah’s archaeological landmarks and historical stories, as well as providing tourist guidance for the pilgrim and visitor to offer them an enriching experience.”
“We worked day and night over the course of these four days without stopping or sleeping, and winning feels indescribably amazing,” she said.
The second-placed team, “Mataie,” won the SR40,000 prize, while the third-placed team, “Ehtiwa,” which translates to “contain,” received the SR30,000 award.
The team leader, Jumana Al-Wafi, 22, also from Umm Al-Qura University, told Arab News: “Our idea is about the path of waste accumulation in the holy sites. We came up with the idea of relying on the Haram cameras to support artificial intelligence by detecting waste on the streets or containers by notifying the competent authorities that area A has an 80 percent waste piling and that action should be taken. Our idea also predicts the future.”
The fourth-placed team, “Wajd,” received a SR 20,000 prize, while the fifth-placed team, “The Lost,” received SR10,000.
During the competition, 12 advisory sessions and eight workshops were provided to participants. The competition aims to attract the leading minds in programming to achieve several goals — stimulating creativity and innovation in the Hajj and Umrah sector, building innovative and sustainable technology throughout practical solutions, and enhancing the use of modern and emerging technologies in the Hajj and Umrah sector.
During the closing ceremony, Amr Al-Maddah, deputy minister for Hajj and Umrah Services, said: “When we talk about the Hajj journey, we are talking about the journey of a lifetime, which means that we are dealing with the dreams and aspirations of over 1.6 billion Muslims. Because Hajj brings together all pillars of Islam in one place, its impact on the lives of pilgrims will also stay for a lifetime, and we always want to leave the best impact. Thus, you would see an enormous interest directed to an exhibition like Hajj Expo.”
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the importance of the challenge in developing the Kingdom’s youth’s digital capabilities by employing their capabilities and relying on their promising talents.
This initiative comes within the activities of Expo Hajj 2023, which discussed quality in the services system.
About 400 agreements and partnerships were signed during the four-day Hajj Expo, with international participation from more than 60 countries.
The Expo discussed ways to develop a road map to enhance and enrich the Hajj journey through ten main sessions, 13 discussion panels, “Hajj Talk” sessions, and 36 workshops delivered by experts from related fields.
It was attended by more than 60,000 visitors from inside and outside the Kingdom, and more than 200 specialized companies were present, in addition to local companies.