UAE Hackathon

DATA FOR HAPPINESS - Open Data Challenge

Dates: February through International Open Data Day, March 3, 2018

Locations: Across UAE

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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 message of confirmation from the UAE Hackathon team

Pre-hackathon capacity training

Attending the training on the first day is mandatory for all those who wish to attend and participate in the second and third days of the hackathon.

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 five challenges for the competitors to find solutions. These challenges revolve around the following topics:  

  • Transportation
  • Health
  • Sustainable development
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Gender

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 government 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.  Team members must be at least 50% UAE citizens or residents.  Teams must demonstrate individual and professional diversity.

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
  • Civil servants 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 03rd of March 2018 Abu Dhabi


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.

Will there be additional activities aside from training and hacking?

Yes. There will be a few recreational activities. Please see your specific site for schedule of activities.

Will the recreational activities be co-ed?

Each site will offer female/male segregated activities and most will also offer activities that are integrated. Please see your specific site for details.

Is participation in the hackathon limited to citizens and residents?

Participation in teams is open to those holding an 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?

Each of the hackathons will be organised at different universities. Please see your specific site for logistics details. to event schedule>

What is the timing of the hackathons?

Please refer to your specific site; 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 3 March 2018.

When will the prizes be awarded?

Prizes will be awarded during the events and at International Open Data Day, 3 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.