UAE Hackathon

DATA FOR HAPPINESS - Open Data Challenge

Dates: February through International Open Data Day, March 4, 2018

Locations: Across UAE



The UAE Government is interested in exploring how to identify, share, and use open data for civic projects and expand citizen and civic engagement to advance participation in governmental affairs for social good.

Hence, we at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, under our responsibility to develop smart government at the federal level in the UAE, are launching the UAE Hackathon under the motto ‘Data for Happiness’.

We are inviting you to participate and get the chance to be part of our mission to contribute to the future of the UAE by sharing this experience with hundreds of young people in the seven emirates of the UAE.


This project will create an opportunity for hundreds of young people to use open data as a tool for innovation and to boost economic growth. Youth will be able to analyse data and come up with solutions that will advance the UAE towards a prosperous and happy future.

How to participate

Step 1: Click on ‘Register’ and add your name and email ID

Step 2: From the list of hackathons, select the one you are willing to participate in

Step 3: You will receive a verification message from the UAE Hackathon team

Pre-hackathon capacity training

The first day of the Hackathon will be allocated for training and gaining more knowledge, while the second and third days will be for analyzing data and innovating solutions and ideas to be provided.

Capacity training will build fundamental skills so that participants will have a viable role to play; no one would feel intimidated by data and believe that they do not have the capacity to contribute. 

Theme and challenges

As the UAE leadership has set happiness as the ultimate goal of its strategies and policies, we have expressed this in the theme of the hackathon: Data for Happiness.

We have selected eight challenges for the competitors to find solutions. These challenges revolve around the following topics:

  • Transportation and traffic congestion
  • Health and safety
  • Sustainable development (post-oil age)
  • Environment and climate change
  • Education
  • Gender balance
  • Social relations in the UAE community
  • Enhancement of lifestyle

Participants in the UAE hackathons will use available data sets and may supplement with planned collected data to design solutions in these areas.


Sources of data

Data refers to a collection of facts (numbers, words, measurements, observations, etc.) that have been translated into a form that computers can process.

Today, data is changing the entire world. It is the driver of transformation towards the concept of digital governance and smart cities. Data is often called the oil of the 21st century.

In the UAE, the Government has launched a strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This strategy outlines the path to achieve around the clock intelligent and interactive government services to achieve customer happiness and to position the UAE as a model for interactive cities. One of the aims of this strategy is to improve the use of artificial intelligence and other cutting edge technologies optimise the utilization of data in planning the future.

The Data for Happiness project will create a set of products around human and machine-readable open data around topics of particular interest to the government and civil society. The topics could align with the national goals (such as transport, education, economy or health) or may include issues of more local interest.

These datasets may be gathered from published paper documents, online resources, or the UAE open data portal. The gathered datasets will be made available to the participants in machine- and human-readable formats.


Hackathons should be looked at as a collaborative effort that includes teams of 4-6 members with skill sets in various fields such as communications, creative thinking, programming, innovation, presentation and working in a group environment. Participation in UAE Hackathon is open to nationals and residents holding an Emirates ID. If you are a UAE resident and are not able to attend in person, you may join online provided at least one team member is available at the start and close to present your solution.

This is not a coding event but an innovative exercise that brings out the creativity of the group. The process involves a two-pronged approach of working with government and data owners to identify what information is available that is open or could readily be made available in a short period of time, and applying that data toward a practical and sustained solution for service delivery and civic happiness. This second prong requires identifying and engaging key civil organizations on the issues that are most important for them and the government to address. These projects require collaboration and agreement with specific government offices, civil organizations, and technologists to work together for a sustained product.

Examples can include a more efficient method for accessing local or national government services, a reporting or alerting system to identify non-functional street lamps or building a more user-friendly inventory of local businesses for outside investors to more easily partner with.

These are but samples of a myriad of potential projects that a hackathon can tackle.

Who can participate?

The target audience for capacity training and hackathons will depend on the topic. Likely audiences are:

  • University and high school students in the UAE
  • Government and private sector employees to develop core literacy to engage with technologists and to steer information to create useful open datasets
  • Journalists with basic data analysis and data visualization skills to report and share stories about the project and share with project managers the products and issues that organizations and individuals would like to have addressed.
  • Researchers to share their expertise and build up the capacity for the next generation of workers.
  • Subject matter experts looking to increase their technical skills.



Six hackathons will be organised in the seven emirates according to the following schedule:

Abu Dhabi Hackathon 4 - 6 February 2018 Khalifa University
RAK Hackathon 11 - 13 February 2018 American University of Ras Al Khaimah
Fujairah Hackathon 11 - 13 February 2018 Ajman University, Fujairah branch
Sharjah Hackathon 18 - 20 February 2018 Sharjah University
Ajman and Umm Al Quwain Hackathon 19 - 21 February 2018 Ajman University, Ajman branch
Dubai Hackathon 25 - 27 February 2018 Zayed University
Closing ceremony 4th of March 2018 Zayed University, Dubai


What are the requirements for registering for the UAE Hackathon?

All that is required is that you are interested in understanding or using open data to help address a challenge related to one of the topics. You do not need specific technical skills to participate.

Can I apply individually or must I apply with a team?

You can apply individually or with a team.

Must I participate in a co-ed team?

No. Most locations encourage diverse teams but all have the option for participants to apply with or request to join female/male segregated teams.

Is participation in the hackathon limited to citizens and residents?

Participation in the UAE Hackathon is open to anyone holding a valid Emirates ID.

Should the solution be an idea or a final, usable product?

Although prototypes of products are encouraged, a well-defined idea or blueprint concept would be acceptable as well.

How long will be the UAE hackathon?

Each of the hackathons will be two days. The day before the hackathon, technical training will be available for those who are interested. There will be six events around the UAE and you are welcome to participate in the one most convenient for you.

Where will the UAE hackathon be organised?

Venues of hackathons in each emirate are as follows:

Abu Dhabi Khalifa University
Ras Al Khaimah American University of Ras Al Khaimah
Fujairah Ajman University, Fujairah branch
Sharjah Sharjah University
Ajman and Umm Al Quwain Ajman University, Ajman branch
Dubai Zayed University

What is the timing of the hackathons?

Generally the days will begin at 8 am for registration and trainings. Hacking will run from 9am to 5pm.

Is it allowed for participants to go home at the end of the day?

Yes, participants should plan to go home. Teams often continue to work into the night, but work can be organised to be done from home. At least one team member must be present at the end of the hackathon to present the results, though we would prefer the entire team to be at the presentation.

I know that six hackathons will be organised in the seven emirates. Am I required to attend all hackathons in all the emirates?

No. Most people will most likely attend one event, but you are encouraged to attend as many as you like.

Can I participate in the hackathons with different teams in different emirates?

Yes, though you may not work on the same project at multiple sites.

Who are the organisers and partners of the UAE Hackathon?

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE Government is the primary organiser. Partners include the hosting organisations and other consulting organization. These include: Zayed University, University of Sharjah, Khalifa University, Ajman University, Ajman University at Fujairah Campus, Richard Kerby LLC, and Open Data Collaboratives.

Do I need to bring my laptop with me?

All participants should bring their own laptops, and each team must ensure that they have the minimum number of devices needed for their work. If you do not have enough laptops, contact the event organizer for coordination.

Do hackathon organisers provide transportation to the hackathon venue?

No transportation is provided.

Do hackathon organisers provide snacks at the hackathon venue?

Yes, meals, snacks and beverages are provided.

What to wear during participation in the hackathon?

We encourage you to be comfortable. Visit the venue information for the specific hackathon you are interested in, for further clarification.

Can participants take rest or sleep during the hackathon?

Yes, participants should plan to head home and in most locations, there will also be areas for rest. Locations have separate relaxation areas for men and women.

How many teams will participate in each hackathon?

This depends on the number of participants, but we expect 15 to 25 teams per hackathon with 4-6 persons per team.

How many members are required in each team?

Successful teams will most likely have about 4 to 6 members, but you are welcome to contact us if you fall outside this range. If you do not have a team, please register and will we connect you with a team looking for members.

How are teams built up and team members selected? Are members free to form teams by themselves? Will organisers select members to build up teams?

Participants are welcome to organise their own team in advance of the hackathon. Please recruit your friends and co-workers to join. If you do not have a team, or perhaps need some additional team members, the organisers will help to form teams. During registration note your topics of interest and other information, and we will match you to a team.

What is the judging criteria for winners?

Specific criteria will be provided to registered participants in the week prior to the hackathon. Generally, the criteria will include the quality of use of current and potential UAE data, the likelihood of adoption of the product, the marketing strategy and plan for sustainable use of the product and the diversity of participants and/or advisors providing expertise to the team.

Can I participate online from outside the UAE?

No, unfortunately we will not be offering online participation or training for team members based outside of the UAE. If you are a UAE resident and are not able to attend in person, you may join online provided at least one team member is available at the start and close to present your solution. Mentors are welcome to join online though they are encouraged to join in person if feasible.

When will the results be declared?

At the end of each hackathon, the participants will present their ideas or prototypes and these presentations will be recorded. A jury of prestigious judges will evaluate the presentations and final selections will be announced at an event marking International Open Data Day on 4 March 2018.

When will the prizes be awarded?

Prizes will be awarded during the events and at International Open Data Day, 4 March 2018.

What prizes will the winners get?

Winners will receive valuable prizes, to be announced later.

Will certificates or other opportunities be provided to all participants?

All participants will receive a certificate celebrating their contribution and a swag bag. All are welcome to apply for a select number of internships available from TRA.

Will government offices or NGOs adopt the developed products?

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE Government will endeavour to match the developed products to the ministries or organisations most interested in these. It is hoped that some of the developed products will be adopted or helped to mature into operational products.

Do the winning team members have the intellectual property rights on the developed product?

Hackathons are meant for collaboration in a creative, open and transparent way to solve large challenges. As part of that, the work done in hackathons is generally provided openly and the quick timing precludes any lengthy legal procedures. We encourage teams to look at the Creative Commons licences if they are interested in retaining intellectual ownership or acknowledgement of their work. Most often, hackathon teams choose the CC By or CC By-SA licence.

Do I need to know how to code or have a technical skill to participate?

No, specific technical skills are not needed. If you would like to attend technical training, these will be available the day before the hackathon.

Will the trainings and the event be conducted in Arabic?

No. Although many of our trainers will be able to provide additional guidance in Arabic, the primary language for the event is English.

I have a specific condition that requires special care. Will I be able to participate?

We encourage diverse participation. Please contact us directly and we will do everything we can to ensure you are able to participate.

As a team member, can I come for part of the event?

Yes, although someone from your team must be available to make the final presentation. Each team will determine the team’s membership and some of that may depend on each person’s contribution.

Can I come just to observe?

Yes, but we encourage you to participate! However, for those who would like to have exposure to a hackathon, but are not able to partner, are welcome to observe. All attendees must register.


UAE Hackathon, at a glance

Viewed as the largest data event at the national level, the UAE Hackathon comprises a number of events/hackathons which will take place at specific locations throughout the seven emirates. The UAE Hackathon reflects the efforts of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) to disseminate the culture of digital transformation in the country. This project provides an opportunity to different sections of the community including university and high school students, entrepreneurs, employed people and IT experts to use open data as a tool for coming up with solutions based on specific themes and challenges listed for the hackathon.

Grounds for starting out hackathons

The UAE is pursuing an active role in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, primarily, artificial intelligence and smart city. It is widely known that data has become one of the most important features of the digital era, and the focus on data in terms of understanding, analysis and employment has become one of the most important highlights in the transformation towards a digital/knowledge economy.

In view of this, the wise leadership of the UAE launched the Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy, the National Innovation Strategy, and other national plans that form part of the mechanisms of making the future.

The UAE Hackathon is an integral part of these national trends, and it aims to draw attention to the high value of data and the solutions inherent within it when dealing with daily challenges with regard to the economic, social, environmental and scientific aspects of life.

UAE Hackathon organiser

UAE Hackathon is part of the innovative initiatives launched by Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Telecommunications Regulatory Authority launched this hackathon as part of its role towards the community and its responsibility to push forward the digital transformation at the federal level.

Participating entities

Several government entities are participating in the UAE Hackathon. This includes the local eGovernments of the UAE, a number of federal government entities and the private sector. A detailed list of the participating parties will be announced on the webpage of the UAE Hackathon.

Hackathon themes

The UAE Hackathon revolves around several challenges, which include:

  • Transportation and traffic congestion
  • Health and safety
  • Sustainable development (post-oil age)
  • Environment and climate change
  • Education
  • Gender balance
  • Social relations in the UAE community
  • Enhancement of lifestyle

Purpose of the UAE Hackathon

Under its motto ‘Data for Happiness’, the UAE Hackathon aims to use data to develop innovative solutions and ideas that contribute to the happiness of the community. It also aims to engage a significant number of students with participants from other sectors of the society to develop modern solutions based on the analysis of available data.

Number of participants in the UAE Hackathon

The hackathon will take place at six locations across the UAE. 200 hackers/competitors will be participating at each venue. This number may increase or decrease depending on the conditions at each hackathon. The total number of targeted participants is 1,200 hackers from the six events.

Who can participate in the hackathon?

Anyone residing in the UAE and having a valid Emirates ID can participate in the UAE Hackathon. No specializations or the practise of certain professions is required. You are only required to register online. It is best to register as teams and not individuals; however, individual registrations are also accepted.

Why "Data for Happiness"?

The wise leadership of the UAE places community happiness at the forefront of its objectives, which are embodied in the government’s strategies and plans. This is why we have selected the ‘Data for Happiness’ as the motto of the hackathon.

UAE Hackathon venues

Six hackathons will take place across the UAE, covering participants from the seven emirates. Each emirate will host one hackathon, except Umm Al Quwain and Ajman, which will have one joint hackathon. Find below the venues of hackathons in each emirate:

Abu Dhabi Khalifa University
Ras Al Khaimah American University of Ras Al Khaimah
Fujairah Ajman University, Fujairah branch
Sharjah Sharjah University
Ajman and Umm Al Quwain Ajman University, Ajman branch
Dubai Zayed University


Hackathons dates

Six hackathons will be held in the seven emirates from 4 to 27 February 2018. The closing ceremony will be held on 4 March 2018, coinciding with the International Open Data Day. Find below the dates of hackathons in each emirate:

Abu Dhabi hackathon 4 - 6 February 2018
RAK hackathon 11 - 13 February 2018
Fujairah hackathon 11 - 13 February 2018
Sharjah hackathon 18 - 20 February 2018
Ajman and Umm Al Quwain hackathon 19 - 21 February 2018
Dubai hackathon 25 - 27 February 2018

Duration of each hackathon

Each hackathon will take place in three days; the first day is assigned for training. A team of experts will explain to participants the essence of hackathons and teamwork in developing ideas and solutions from data. Participants will be trained on how to integrate and analyze data to come up with patterns that help shape ideas and solutions.

On the second and third days, participating teams of 4-6 members will examine the available data, and each will look at the data from its own perspective. For example, the media professionals might look at the data in a way that is different from the way a health expert or an environmental officer might look at it.

Closing ceremony (prize distribution)

The closing ceremony and prize distribution will take place on 4 March 2018, coinciding with the International Open Data Day. On that day, participants and winners will be awarded with certificates and prizes.

Hackathon prizes

The UAE Hackathon offers three levels of rewards to participants:

Level one - Participation: All participants will receive a certificate of participation from TRA.

Level two - Winning participants: Winning solutions, applications and a video showing the winning works will be displayed on the official portal of the UAE Government.

Level three - Winners at the national level: In addition to the above, winners will receive prizes in kind.

Registration for hackathon

Anyone willing to participate in the UAE Hackathon may register in advance through the hackathon webpage. Registration does not have special requirements. After the registration, the applicant will receive a letter confirming the completion of the registration process. Registration is preferred in teams, though individual registration is also accepted.

Available data

The organizer of the UAE Hackathon will provide data from several sources which include   published documents and resources, online resources and the open data portal of the UAE Government.

Dress code 

Participation in UAE Hackathon does not require formal wear. We encourage all to be comfortable and in compliance with any conditions set out by the hackathon venue.

Participating teams

Hacking will be held through teams. Each team will have about 4 to 6 members. Participants may register as one team, or as individuals. Coordination will be made with individuals to form teams amongst them.

Evaluation and judging

A jury of expert judges will evaluate the presentations, discuss the ideas presented by the participating teams, make final decisions and announce results.

Evaluation criteria

Teams will be evaluated based on:

  • Integration of UAE open data
  • Relevance to the quality of life and happiness in the UAE
  • Quality of presentation
  • Degree of innovation and sustainability including likelihood of market adoption or other sustained use.

Recreational activities

There will be some recreational activities during the hackathon; each venue might have different recreational activities.


Hackathon organizers will provide snacks at the venue.


Neither the hackathon organizers nor the hosting parties provide transportation to the hackathon venue. Therefore, each participating individual or team must manage its own transport to the hackathon venue. 


Participants should plan to head home at the end of the day for rest. There will also be areas for rest at most venues. Teams can continue to work into the night if so allowed by the hosting university. Participants can manage for the work to be done from home on condition that at least one team member is present at the end of the hackathon to present the results and solutions. A team of supervisors will be available at the venue to respond to any inquiries during the event.

Online participation

We do not offer online participation for teams or individuals based outside the country. However, if you are a UAE resident and are not able to attend in person, you may still join online provided at least one team member is available, at the start and close, to present your solution.

Roles and responsibilities for those supervising the hackathon

Judging criteria

On the final day of each hackathon, teams will present their work to a panel of five judges from diverse backgrounds and expertise. Teams will be evaluated based on:

  • Integration of UAE open data
  • Relevance to the quality of life and happiness in the UAE
  • Quality of presentation
  • Degree of innovation and sustainability including likelihood of market adoption or other sustained use.


We would appreciate if universities could assign at least one candidate to join the hackathon judges; the more the better. This is requested with the intention to ensure minimal bias of the judges. Please review the schedule of the hackathon series and identify which of the dates and locations will be best for you noting that the judges would need to participate for three full hours on site on the final day of the hackathon.

Judges description

  • Judges may come from any experience; however, a judge who has expertise in any of the core themes of the hackathon:
  • Transportation and traffic congestion, Health and safety, Sustainable development (post-oil age), Environment and climate change, Education, and Gender balance, Social relations in the UAE community, and Enhancement of lifestyle would be preferred.
  • The judge must have specific expertise to evaluate submissions based on the judging criteria: technical sophistication, marketing and business development.
  • Although IT specialization is not a must, it will be an added value to have good knowledge in IT
  • Judges will be eligible to judge hackathons other than his/her own emirate
  • Judges have to be bilingual; to understand presentations in Arabic and English.


We would appreciate if universities could depute 5 to 8 mentors, to participate on days 2 and 3 of the hackathon. Mentors may be professors, graduates students or professionals from other fields.

Mentors description/roles

  • Throughout the hackathon, mentors from diverse backgrounds will be available to provide guidance and expertise to teams and support them to make the best use of the brief time available.
  • To ensure that the teams have adequate guidance and individual mentors are not overwhelmed with requests, we are aiming for a ratio of 1 mentor to 4 teams, or 1 mentor for 20 participants.
  • Ideal mentors must have expertise in any of the core themes of the hackathon: Transportation and traffic congestion, Health and safety, Sustainable development (post-oil age), Environment and climate change, Education, and Gender balance, Social relations in the UAE community, and Enhancement of lifestyle.
  • It would be better if mentors are bilingual, to be able to communicate with participants in English and Arabic
  • We hope that mentors can be available throughout the two days of the hackathon. However, if this is not possible, we propose that they join in the mornings as teams are developing their proposals and later, be available online to provide advice during the event.
  • Mentors may not be part of a team.


The UAE Hackathon: Data for Happiness is not only looking for great solutions but also to grow the capacity and data literacy for the future. The first day of each event will feature a series of introductory and intermediate trainings on several topics of data analytics, data visualization, introduction to growing fields such as the Internet of Things, blockchain and artificial intelligence, and orientation on how to find, use, and improve data from the UAE.

We will provide several options for training participants and we would appreciate if you can also offer the opportunity to nominate trainers to student groups and other participants. These trainings should last between 2 and 3 hours and provide the minimal familiarity with a subject area. The best trainings will be linked to a project or ongoing work that can be continued throughout the hackathon.

Team Leads

TRA and FCSA are working across the UAE government to share and provide open data sets for participants. Finally, we would like to request you to nominate professors, graduate students, and others who may have a current project that would benefit from volunteer support involving cleaning up a gathered dataset, expanding analysis on that data, or developing a marketing and media strategy to share out good work. This will ensure the greatest success, as the best products to come out of the hackathon are those that will have a leader to continue to steer them.


Student volunteers will join to run registrations, serve as ushers to guide participants, and may take on other specific roles as required. Volunteers need not be present throughout the event and they are welcome to participate in the trainings.


Observers of the hackathon are welcome for brief periods. We recommend the pitch session at the start of the second day and the judging session at the close of the final day to observe and learn about the UAE Data for Happiness series.


The “UAE Hackathon – Data for Happiness" project is part of the innovative initiative launched by TRA as part of its role in supporting the community and advancing the digital transformation at the federal level. The Hackathon coincided with the UAE month of innovation and the Year of Zayed. Several government entities participated in the Hackathon, in addition to the academic and private sector, with the support of the National Program of Happiness and Positivity, and the presence of H.E. Ohood Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing, and Director General of Prime Minister’s Office. The total number of participants in the UAE Hackathon reached 781 participants, distributed to 176 teams, from all the Emirates. The rate of female participation reached 60% of the total number of participants. In the six stages of the Hackathon, 18 teams won the top three positions on the national level, with three winning teams at each stage. Hundreds of contestants, volunteers, judges, mentors, trainers and organizers have participated in the ceremony. Check below a collection of photos that reflect the happy and innovative atmosphere that prevailed the UAE Hackathon.

Document TitleDownloadDocument Date
Partners ZIP106 MB 03/04/2018
Winners ZIP110 MB 03/04/2018
Contestants ZIP810MB 03/04/2018