Saudi Arabia looks to technology to make hajj pilgrims safer

With quite 1.6 million Muslims inbound in Asian nation within the returning days for the annual pillar of Islam pilgrim’s journey to Mecca, thousands of programmers and developers are laborious at work to come back up with concepts that would rework the face of this ancient ceremony.

At a questionable ‘hajj hackathon’ unionized this month in urban center, inventors competed for prize price $420,000, as a part of a brand new push by the kingdom’s authorities for a wider use of technology to create the pilgrim’s journey expertise safer and additional gratifying for the millions UN agency perform it per annum.

While pillar of Islam organisers have for years used technologies for several functions like large-scale simulation to predict the movement and flow of crowds, this has not prevented deadly accidents just like the stampede that left many pilgrims dead in 2015. officers hope that gap the door for concepts from outside the govt. might give innovative solutions to advanced previous issues.

“Most apps or existing technologies used currently in pillar of Islam square measure sometimes developed by government entities UN agency build these technologies and platforms,” aforementioned Reda Banjar, head of technology events at a aborning government entity known as the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP), that unionized the hackathon. “What’s new is obtaining individuals and also the community concerned, not simply Saudis however all nationalities UN agency need to serve pillar of Islam. They get an opportunity to supply apps and solutions that improve the expertise and add worth,” he added.

With a record range of developers and programmers from Muslim nations like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Muscat and Oman, in addition because the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Japan, the three-day hackathon highlighted the social changes seen in Asian nation over the last 2 years as prince Mahomet bin Salman continues to open up the country.

The top prize visited associate degree all-female team UN agency designed associate degree app that gives time period translation of text and aggregation while not connecting to the web. “We managed to destroy the not possible and prove that Saudi girls can do something,” aforementioned developer Bayan al-Ghamdi. There was no gender segregation at the event, and also the usual strict codification for girls —wearing a protracted flowing cloak in public— was perceptibly relaxed. regarding one third of participants were girls, adult male Banjar aforementioned, a way higher rate than what’s typical in such events abroad during a sector historically dominated by men.

One feminine participant entered the venue sporting a try of blue jeans, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her shoulders and a Red Sox baseball hat. Security guards ushered her in while not batting an eye fixed.

Rami Taibah, a Saudi developer, aforementioned the organisation of the event in urban center was on a par with a hackathon he attended in town, hosted by on-line payment big PayPal. “I was disturbed regarding problems like net property because of massive crowds, as a result of if that fails it fully kills you,” he said. “But there aren’t any problems. we’ve a awfully quick association.”

Mr Taibah associate degreed his team developed an application that will use automatic face recognition technology to retrieve medical info of pilgrims UN agency square measure either unconscious or have a barrier. “Medical employees will then intervene during a assured means and not worry doing one thing that would build matters worse,” he said.

While organising a peaceful pillar of Islam season with no major incidents stay the predominant goal, the govt. hopes ultimately to extend the influx of holiday makers to support the kingdom’s economic reform plans. It hopes to extend the quantity of Muslims returning for umrah, referred to as the lesser pilgrim’s journey and which might be performed round the year, from 6.8 million guests to fifteen million guests by 2020.

Many people worry the inflated use of technology might subtract from the spirituality of a spiritual duty. “Hajj isn’t resistant to all the ills that technology has shaped on society as a full,” aforementioned Shahed Amanullah, co-founder of Affinis Labs and former senior consultant for technology at the North American country Department of State.

“Technology begs for North American country to require the non-public and build it impersonal, to specialize in however associate degree expertise can look on Instagram instead of being absorbed within the moment,” he added.

Amal Dokhan, director of the Babson international Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, aforementioned the employment of technology ought to specialize in “eliminating pain points, not dynamical the experience” of pillar of Islam.

“This isn’t regarding technology, this is often regarding what technology can do once necessary and if necessary,” she said. “Because no one needs this to be extremely systematic wherever it loses its spirit. there’s conjointly some mystery into this journey.”

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