Droidcon Dubai 2015. (Images via Facebook)
"A 17-hour flight is how long it took for some of the event speakers to come and participate,” said Mohamed Harastani at the region’s first Droidcon.
Attracting a large number of Arab and international speakers, Droidcon Dubai 2015 saw participants and attendees from all over the Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, (25 percent of attendees were Saudi). Harastani, the conference’s partner and one of the organizers, also pointed out that it hasn’t been long since such events were rare and dispersed in the region. “Only a few people were interested in them. However, the market is more mature today and is pushing people more towards innovation rather than consumption.”
Held in mid-April at the Dubai Knowledge Village, the annual event has fast become a global stopping point for those interested in anything to do with the Android platform.
Importance of open source technology
Focused on the technical aspects of products and platforms that rely on open source technologies such as IBM’s Bluemix, Microsoft Azure, Allseen Alliance’s AllJoyn, the speakers and participants also looked at how many giant companies need to change their strategies and business plans to integrate the new technology, to keep up with users’ needs and demands.
Meanwhile, Ali Al-Khafaji of IBM emphasized that technology has put success within reach, especially now that everyone now has the necessary power and influence to create what they want. He said that Android is one of the many players providing data which is now a key source. Moreover, Android facilitates access to data and makes the latter easier to analyze and understand. He also noted that mobile devices have contributed to unleashing open sources and innovations.
In addition to speakers’ presentations on various open-source technology topics, the event organizers wanted to offer further support to developers, users, and entrepreneurs through both old and new channels. Activities at the conference included:
- Specialized workshops
Workshops for participants, speakers and students, such as ‘Tech as a form of artistic expression’, in which Pixelbug’ founder, Dany Eid talked about Ada Lovelace being the first computer programmer after realizing that coding should be as good as writing poetry. The ‘Green IT’ workshop with Dr. Krishnadas Nanath from Middlesex University in Dubai, talked about embracing technology and preserve the environment at the same time. James Nocentini, a Developer Advocate at Couchbase, presented a workshop on how to build Android offline apps.
An international network of user-generated conferences primarily focused around technology and the web, they support young innovation. “It’s an open platform for developers in the fields of economy, health, geography, etcetera,” explained Herstany. “They get 60 seconds to talk about their apps, whether they need technical, intellectual, or IT support.” The audience then votes on speeches by applauding, and the presentations with the most votes get a room and a one-hour time slot to present.
In the end 23 ideas were pitched, of which 10 were selected, including ebag and Wiki Shop from Ajman University, as well as Idoole, Vmall, and No roam.
Female participation in technology is still rare. Globally they only constitute 12 percent of the workforce. “At first, we rarely used to see women in the audience,” said Droidcon founder Boris Jebsen, “but this is starting to change now and we wanted to contribute to that by partnering with Intel’s Diversity in Technology initiative.” The program aims at supporting female developers and boosting their numbers, by dedicating a budget to cover all the costs of their participation in Droidcon, from travel to accommodation.
Growth of the region’s tech scene
Held in partnership with Dubai Internet City the event is part of Dubai’s ongoing efforts to adopt and keep up with the latest technology.
Despite that the government putting technology at the heart of the country's development, especially with its support for the Dubai Smart City initiative, Harastani called upon the private sector to join its efforts with the government’s in order to meet people’s growing needs and demands as well as to allow “better innovation from and for the region.”
While it still is a nascent scene for the region, participations were marked by their sophistication and accuracy, and focused on the technical aspects of products and platforms that rely on open source technologies such as IBM’s Bluemix, Microsoft Azure, Allseen Alliance’s AllJoyn.
They also focused on the fact that open source platforms are now key players in technology and have even forced many giant companies to change their strategies and business plans to integrate the new technology, in order to continue and keep up with users’ needs and demands.
Who are Droidcon?
Since its first conference in Berlin in 2009, Droidcon has travelled to multiple cities, from Moscow to Tunis. “We’re always looking for partners,” said Jebsen. “When Mohamed [Harastani] contacted me, I didn’t hesitate for one second about holding the event in Dubai, having noticed the large number of people and youths interested in technology.”
Since 2009, when the first Droidcon was held in Berlin, the conference has aimed to support the Android platform with the creation of global networks for developers and companies.
As a result the Dubai gathering attracted a number of giant corporations which are usually competitors including Microsoft, IBM, Google, Blackberry, Intel, Paypal, and Groupon, as well as a number of technology startups such as Pixelbug, Couchbase, and Clicly.