Profiles of main tech parks, accelerators, hackathons
The Iraqi youth mainly adopt initiatives on the exchange of technological expertise by organising limited technological gatherings because there is no direct or indirect support from the governmental institutions in the country.
The open-air markets where computers, Internet devices and telephones are sold are the most prominent electronic gatherings in Iraq, most notably the Sharie Alsinaea (Industrial Street) and Sharie Al-Rubaie (Al-Rubaie Street) in Baghdad.
Share Alsinaea, which is located next to the University of Technology (UOT), is the most popular and includes dozens of shops mainly dedicated to the sale of electronic devices and software which are run by technology and software developers. This market is an opportunity to exchange experiences.
Despite the lack of periodic technology groups, developers and technicians use social networking sites, especially Facebook and YouTube, to exchange experiences and discussions on the latest technological developments worldwide. There are dozens of pages and groups on Facebook about it such as ITECH Apple, Computer engineering of Iraq, Iraqi Group Of Programmers, Iraqi Technical on YouTube and IQpeace on Twitter.
A limited number of Iraqi youths get international invitations to participate in special international conferences on technology as a result of individual efforts.
There are some organisations and institutions that organise technical meetings for the youths who are interested and specialised in this field, especially in business administration and youth support organisations to encourage small projects. The private sector is also are one of the actors in organising technical meetings such as Hiteck Iraq, Bitetech, TechHub, and The Station.
Startup companies are growing increasingly popular around the world, Iraq included. Young entrepreneurs are opening businesses with the purpose of reigniting tourism in Iraq, simplifying food delivery, offering on-call babysitting services, exc. However, due to a lack of basic infrastructure, payment options, and the fact that only 14% of Iraqis buy online and 6% possess credit cards. These companies face severe challenges.
Re:Coded is a tech entrepreneurship academy which first launched at New York University in 2016, the Academy focuses on giving startups core skills to conflict-afflicted youth in Iraq, Turkey, and Yemen, which will help them run a successful business. Marcello Bonatto the co-founder of Re:Coded said: “We not only wanted to provide training to Iraqi youth in becoming entrepreneurs but also turn their ideas into actual businesses. It’s important for us to show that tech-businesses are a viable future for the youth in Iraq,”
The Iraq Technology and Entrepreneurship Alliance (ITEA), consisting of The Station in Baghdad, Re:Coded in Erbil, Science Camp in Basra, Five One Labs in Sulaymaniyah, and Mosul Space in Mosul, was founded in 2018 to bring together and coordinate the efforts of the tech and entrepreneurship leaders in Iraq.
In April 2019, the ITEA hosted the Iraq Innovation Hackathon, which was open for participation by all sorts of Iraqi developers, designers and enthusiasts in order to figure out solutions that improve their country and communities. Mentors were assigned to assist the participants, and at the end of the 48 hour event, a panel of judges chose winners in each city. The winners received office space, mentorship in further projects as well as cash prizes.
The nationwide theme for the Hackathon was the recycling of plastic waste. Other secondary themes include: improving public education and promoting tourism.
“The Hackathon encourages young people across Iraq to learn more about technology and entrepreneurship,” said Patricia Letayf, co-founder of Five One Labs, “And it aligns developers in different cities in Iraq around a shared event, to creatively solve problems facing their cities."