NASA SPACE APPS CAIRO CAN TRANS­FORM COUN­TRY INTO TECH HUB

THE SMALL AND MEDI M EN­TER­PRISES SMES FORM THE BACK­BONE OF AN CO NTR

The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Mo­hamed Samir

Af­ter sev­eral years marked by tur­bu­lence and un­cer­tainty, Egypt’s econ­omy suf­fers nu­mer­ous chal­lenges, from po­lit­i­cal un­rest and de­clin­ing tourism to for­eign cur­rency and fuel short­ages, which led the govern­ment to adopt a re­form pro­gramme to im­prove Egypt’s pub­lic fi­nances.

In­no­va­tion and eco­nomic progress go hand in hand; sup­port­ing SMEs and tech star­tups is a step that is rec­om­mended by al­most ev­ery fi­nan­cial ex­pert and is part of Egypt’s eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme, as they can ab­sorb thou­sands who join Egypt’s work­force an­nu­ally, us­ing such hu­man cap­i­tal to boost the econ­omy and in­crease ex­ports.

The 2017 In­ter­na­tional NASA Space Apps Chal­lenge Cairo Hackathon brought to­gether de­vel­op­ers, en­gi­neers, sci­en­tists, ed­u­ca­tors, and stu­dents.The Space Apps Chal­lenge, which lasted 48 hours in cities around the world, played a role in em­pow­er­ing the par­tic­i­pants with new knowl­edge and tools needed to face 21st cen­tury chal­lenges.

Apart from the fact that the chal­lenge has helped Egyp­tian in­no­va­tors to be­gin to con­trib­ute to the global in­no­va­tion ecosys­tem, it also af­forded them the op­por­tu­nity to share knowl­edge and solve tough chal­lenges con­cern­ing the fu­ture of our lo­cal space and tech­nol­ogy sec­tor.The hackathon, which was held si­mul­ta­ne­ously in about 192 cities all over the world, was a unique plat­form that con­nected Egypt and Africa—in a new way—to the most cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies and eco­nomic driv­ers of to­mor­row.

Events such as these can pave the way into a larger tech startup and SME sec­tor in Egypt, in­creas­ing knowl­edge and sup­port­ing young in­no­va­tors fi­nan­cially and sci­en­tif­i­cally can be the cor­ner­stone of such change.

“The In­ter­na­tional Space Apps is one of the great­est events that Egypt could host. In­no­va­tion is part of the youth’s characteristics. I en­cour­age you all to delve into the top­ics of the In­ter­na­tional Space Apps,pro­vide ideas,change per­cep­tions, and keep on try­ing to think about space ex­plo­ration and how we can im­prove life on Earth in the fu­ture,” said Farouk El-Baz, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Re­mote Sens­ing and re­search pro­fes­sor at the De­part­ments of Ar­chae­ol­ogy and Elec­tri­cal and Com­puter En­gi­neer­ing at Bos­ton Uni­ver­sity.

The small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) form the back­bone of any coun­try, es­pe­cially the emerg­ing economies, and the growth of small and medium-sized com­pa­nies is an im­por­tant fac­tor for any sec­tor un­til the fi­nan­cial in­te­gra­tion in the for­mal econ­omy.

It is es­ti­mated that around 4060% of Egyp­tians work in the in­for­mal sec­tor, so ab­sorb­ing this sec­tor is in­te­gral to the growth of the econ­omy, while pro­vid­ing sup­port to short and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) was ad­vised by the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund (IMF) and is a part of the Egyp­tian eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Plan­ning, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (ICT) sec­tor topped the state’s fastest grow­ing eco­nomic sec­tors in the first quar­ter (Q1) of the fis­cal year (FY) 2016/2017. The sec­tor achieved a growth rate of 11.2% in this pe­riod. Im­prov­ing this sec­tor could play an im­por­tant role in boost­ing Egypt’s econ­omy.

This year’s Cairo NASA Space Apps Chal­lenge was spon­sored by IBM and var­i­ous other par­ties, who to­gether made it pos­si­ble. IBM will pro­vide in­tern­ship pro­grammes to the chal­lenge’s win­ning teams, as well as pro­vide tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port when needed.

The Na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute of Astron­omy and Geo­physics (NRIAG), which was the sci­en­tific spon­sor for this year’s chal­lenge, pro­vided the tech­ni­cal guid­ance for the par­tic­i­pants. “The space re­search lab is in the fi­nal stages of the project of a tele­scope, which will al­low us to track the de­bris of ev­ery satellite to avoid col­li­sion, in ad­di­tion to study­ing the ef­fect that space has on the ma­te­rial used in satel­lites. The re­search is done by cre­at­ing plasma in our lab, which has the same prop­er­ties as in space,” said Ye­hia Ahmed Ab­de­lAziz, the head of NRIAG’s space re­search lab.

The chal­lenge is or­ga­nized by the Egyp­tian sec­tion of the IEEE, which is the world’s largest tech­ni­cal pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy.The IEEE Young Pro­fes­sion­als (YP) Egypt, which has mem­bers who grad­u­ated from en­gi­neer­ing fac­ul­ties in the last 15 years, or­gan­ises var­i­ous types of events other than the NASA Space Apps Chal­lenge, such as “Egyp­tian En­gi­neer­ing Day” and the “Made in Egypt” com­pe­ti­tion, which sup­ports grad­u­a­tion projects with busi­ness plan­ning and anal­y­sis, ac­cord­ing to Sally Ha­mady, sec­re­tary of IEEEYP Egypt.

NASA Cairo Space Apps is a world­wide 48-hour hackathon, and Egypt started to par­tic­i­pate in 2015.The par­tic­i­pat­ing teams try to re­solve sets of chal­lenges us­ing dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies.

This year’s chal­lenge fo­cus is em­pow­er­ing women in sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing and in­clud­ing school stu­dents in the chal­lenges. 360 teams sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for the 2017 chal­lenge, but only 60 teams were se­lected, as this is the event’s max­i­mum ca­pac­ity for the time be­ing. 20 of the 60 teams were school stu­dents.

One of the app ideas that was pro­posed was an app called “So­lar­ify”, which is a mobile ap­pli­ca­tion that makes it eas­ier to un­der­stand your power con­sump­tion and so­lar power production rates. By en­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion about the ap­pli­ances you have, So­lar­ify will cal­cu­late your av­er­age daily power con­sump­tion, and de­pend­ing on your lo­ca­tion, it will dis­play to you the rec­om­mended so­lar power sys­tem that would best fit your power us­age and the ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gion that you are in.

An­other app idea, which will greatly com­ple­ment So­lar­ify, is called So­lar Out­put Cal­cu­la­tor & Con­sump­tion Plan­ner (SOCC-P). The app’s main pur­pose is to cal­cu­late the out­put of a so­lar panel and then pre­dicts the out­put ac­cord­ing to the lo­ca­tion on Earth.

De­spite Egypt be­ing the largest non-OPEC oil pro­ducer in Africa, it is the largest con­sumer of oil on the con­ti­nent.The coun­try’s use of oil ac­counts for 20% of Africa’s to­tal con­sump­tion. More­over, Egypt has Africa’s largest oil re­fin­ery ca­pac­ity. It faces nu­mer­ous energy chal­lenges. En­sur­ing reli­able, af­ford­able, and sus­tain­able energy is still a ma­jor chal­lenge for the Egyp­tian state, es­pe­cially af­ter the coun­try’s shift in re­cent years from be­ing an ex­porter of nat­u­ral gas to an im­porter.

Fur­ther­more, energy con­sump­tion in­creased in the first decade of the 21st cen­tury, and gas de­mand grew by al­most 9%. Gas be­came the main source for Egypt’s energy needs, reach­ing 50% of the to­tal energy sup­ply, compared to 35% in 2000.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity Project (ASP), non-hy­dro re­new­able energy makes up only 1% of the to­tal energy con­sump­tion in Egypt. Since 2014, Egypt has re­dou­bled its ef­forts to de­velop and use more re­new­able energy in or­der to ad­dress the grow­ing energy chal­lenges, with the goal of pro­duc­ing 20% of the coun­try’s energy sup­ply from re­new­able sources.

wIn Jan­uary 2015,Egypt de­clared its ob­jec­tive of pro­duc­ing ap­prox­i­mately 4,300 megawatts of energy from so­lar and wind power within three years.

So­lar energy has much po­ten­tial in Egypt, with has ap­prox­i­mately 325 days of sun in a year and ap­prox­i­mately 2,400 hours an­nu­ally for po­ten­tial so­lar op­er­a­tions, compared to Spain and Greece—the next sun­ni­est coun­tries—which have 1,900 hours an­nu­ally.

One of the apps pro­posed was an app that will in­te­grate all the satellite in­for­ma­tion about un­der­ground wa­ter lo­ca­tions into the app, so that it would be found by prospect farm­ers and agri­cul­tural in­vestors. The app is de­signed by Bas­sam Sherif and Ahmed Nasr, two high school stu­dents.

It is worth men­tion­ing that the com­pe­ti­tion of space ap­pli­ca­tions for Cairo in 2016 was the largest event in the world for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, where 55 teams com­peted in Ze­wail City of Sci­ence andTech­nol­ogy.The com­pe­ti­tion in Cairo in 2015 at the Nile Uni­ver­sity cam­pus was the largest event that year as well, where hun­dreds par­tic­i­pated in the event in or­der to work to­gether to find so­lu­tions to the chal­lenges posed by NASA.

360 teams sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for the 2017 chal­lenge, 60 teams were se­lected

Sally Ha­mady, sec­re­tary of IEEE YP Egypt, with the or­gan­is­ing IEEE team

Ye­hia Ahmed Ab­del-Aziz, the head of NRIAG’s space re­search lab

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