OTF-UNICEF COVID-19 Youth Technology Challenge kicks off online

MUSCAT: The 48-hour COVID-19 Youth Technology Challenge kick-started with as many as 140 tech enthusiasts from Oman and across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region participating in the virtual challenge aimed at developing new online platforms to provide better opportunities for children and young people amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

The COVID-19 Youth Technology Challenge, co-hosted by Oman Technology Fund and UNICEF Oman, and with support from the Generation Unlimited initiative, sees 50 teams working on innovative ideas in the categories of online access to education, training, employment and health services. In keeping with the physical distancing measures in place, this is an online challenge.

“We are delighted that so many bright young minds from across the region are participating in our youth technology challenge,” said Lana Wreikat, UNICEF Representative to Oman. “Young people inherently understand the problems they face and – as demonstrated by the number of participants taking part – possess a huge drive to find meaningful solutions.”

“The teams are ready with their ideas and now the real work begins,” said Talal bin Sulaiman al Rahbi, OTF’s Chairman of the Board of Directors. “We have an impressive turnout for this very first OTF-UNICEF challenge and I am equally impressed by the quality of ideas submitted. I very much see this as an opportunity for Oman to foster innovative platforms that will have an impact at local, regional and international level.”

“COVID-19 has fundamentally shifted the way we interact with each other,” said Yousuf al Harthy, OTF’s Chief Executive Officer. “But there is no doubt that we can harness technology to develop impactful solutions to the problems this virus has created both in the immediate and longer term.”

With the support of 28 mentors, teams will work flat out over the weekend to develop their ideas, before submitting video pitches to the judging panel, he added.

In the initial round of judging, the panel will evaluate all projects and shortlist 12 finalists. In this next round, judges will conduct a 10-minute Q+A session with each team, before deciding on three winners who will receive $1,000 in seed funding along with the opportunity to further develop their projects via a UNICEF incubation programme. On 16 June, selected finalists will meet with OTF’s investment committee for potential funding and inclusion in its accelerator programme, Al Harthy said.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, OTF allocated RO1 million ($2.6 million) to develop youth-related innovation projects to tackle the crisis, Al Harthy said. — ONA