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Building skills for more technology entrepreneurship in Beirut

Hallie Applebaum's picture
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"101 of Coding Mobile Apps and Web Tools"
ith Kingston Tam from Google
The World Bank collaborated with local Lebanese technology communities to host Open Innovation Week in Beirut at the end of February, bringing speakers from prominent US-based institutions, such as Google, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts International Technology (MIT) for “tinkering with a purpose”. That purpose was to harness the power of open source tools to fix problems and build up their technology and entrepreneurship skills. The event was part of the Mobile Internet Ecosystem Project (MIEP) launched by the World Bank and Lebanese government to invigorate Lebanese entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic competitiveness.
 
A series of TED-style talks and hands-on workshops introduced members of the Lebanese government, academics, and others to a range of tools and technologies aimed at helping young people address challenges critical to Lebanon. Talks given by creative thinkers ranged from topics like industrial design and 3D printing, to open source gaming and online payment methods.
 
Open Innovation Week was designed especially for Lebanon, where 90% literacy rates and good tertiary education enrollment mean that young graduates form a competitive pool of talent. Unemployment, particularly among young people and women, however, is high—34% of all young people and 18% of women are said to be actively looking for work.
 
Open Innovation Week gave young people extra exposure to technologies like “do-it-yourself” computer boards, sensors, open source coding and web tools, business thinking (such as the lean start-up methodology), and techniques like design thinking to channel creativity into solutions relevant to Lebanese youth. Workshops included “Coding Mobile Apps and Web Tools” with Kingston Tam from Google; “Makers 101: Sensors and Mini Computers” with Romain di Vozzo from the Fab Lab network and Malte Ahrens from MIT; and “Visualizing Data to Tell Stories with Open Source Tools” with Aurelia Moser from CartoDB. More than 40 university students, engineers, designers, educators, and entrepreneurs took part.
Participants brainstorm ideas to address
local challenges at Open Innovation Week in Beirut.

​As part of a start-up competition, the week included workshops on how to deliver a strong pitch and create a business model. Teams refined their ideas and concluded the week with a pitching contest. The best team emerging from the acceleration process that follows this will go on a study tour of London’s technology ecosystem.

Preparation for MIEP is due to continue while the Lebanese parliament ratifies the technology hub innovation initiative. A 21st Century Skills Workshop is scheduled for middle school students and teachers in May: Weekend workshops will introduce school children to robotics and coding, promoting experiential, hands-on learning. Children will learn about new technologies, team work, problem solving, and creativity. Teachers will be given training on open, collaborative methodologies to help them apply these in the classroom.
 
View photo album l Learn more about MIE

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