Let the coding begin, ArabCode.org launches in Dubai


Back in November 2013 when Dubai won the right to host Expo 2020, it was obvious that thousands of jobs would be created as the city got prepared.

Then, in November 2014 Tecom Investments, a member of Dubai Holding, announced they would be launching a fund (4.5 billion dirhams fund, just over $1.2 billion USD) this year, specifically aimed at the ICT sector, with the goal of creating 30,000 jobs.

Now, alongside these government targets (Dubai Holding is owned by the ruler of Dubai) the newly launched ArabCode.org site, which teaches people how to code, has set themselves the target of qualifying 50,000 professional coders over the next five years.

The ‘roadmap’ for ArabCode, as they put it, will include the launch of a virtual Coding Academy for web and mobile app development, in 2016, then a digital marketplace for job creation.

Canadian tech for Emirati students

An off shoot of the Toronto-based CoursePeer Inc., a cloud-based learning and collaboration solution for academia and enterprise, ArabCode is working with Dubai Internet City, the region’s largest ICT free zone. The new site, launched this week in Dubai, is going to teach computer science and coding to the region’s youth “through an innovative game-based approach.”

Hadi Aladdin, CoursePeer Inc.’s cofounder and CEO, told Wamda that the site has been in the works for about a year. “We have been meeting with governments and corporations around the region,” adding that Saudi Arabia could be on the agenda next.

Despite launching his company in Canada, the Dubai born and raised entrepreneur always saw the opportunity for something back in the UAE. “I wanted to leverage our existing skills,” he said. “The MENA region faces a tough challenge in terms of being globally competitive in the digital and technology sectors,” Aladdin said. The goal being to make the youth of today the leaders of the digital marketplace tomorrow.
The ArabCode.org launch earlier this week. 

Addressing a need?

While similar initiatives overseas are successful, the move to fill that niche in the Middle East has been slow. “It’s unfortunate that when you look at other initiatives like Code.org,” says Aladdin. “In the Middle East the demand has been low, but once we announced what we were doing, people started to show interest. I feel there is high demand.”

Launching a startup now and without being able to code can be seen as a massive handicap, and with a nascent scene like that of the Middle East, the rise of coding courses and programs is par for the course.

Demand does exist though. Initiatives like Dubai’s The Coding Circle and Jordan’s TOP Academy, regularly offer courses to children and teenagers in writing code.

Operating along the same lines as the US non-profit, who promotes computer science in schools, their approach to the MENA ArabCode is focused very much on Middle Eastern culture. In the second year they’ll be launching a coding academy.

According to a statement from CoursePeer the software that ArabCode will be using is set to educate one million youngsters, 8-years-old and up, “in an interactive and entertaining way, in both Arabic and English, while providing teachers and government stakeholders with dashboards to monitor students’ progress to further facilitate learning.”