CAIRO: Amid the commanding backdrop of Cairo’s historic Salah Eldin Citadel, Microsoft’s top executives told the students competing in the 2009 Imagine Cup finals to vigorously pursue their dreams.
“If you don’t have a dream, get one, Joe Wilson, senior director of Academic Initiatives in the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft, said at the July 3 ceremony.
Students from around the world came to Egypt to compete in the finals of the international software competition and, along with hundreds of attendees, joined Microsoft executives at the lavish opening ceremony this past Friday at the Citadel.
Speaking to an audience that included government officials, representatives of multinational organizations and companies, public figures and participating students, Wilson said, “Everything started out as a dream by these students.
Egypt is playing host to the weeklong Imagine Cup 2009 finals organized by Microsoft, the first time the technology tournament is held in the Middle East and Africa region.
Held under the theme, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today, the competition’s seventh edition officially kicked off on Saturday.
At a time where food, energy and supplies are scarce, Imagine Cup students focused on finding innovative ways to address the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, tailoring technological solutions to tackle poverty, the spread of HIV/AIDS and universal primary education.
Over the three days of the competition, 149 teams consisting of 444 students from 124 countries that qualified to the global finals are competing in nine different categories in addition to the seven excellence awards that will be given out this year in different fields.
Their projects will be showcased in the presence of hundreds of technology experts, executives from global companies and organizations and with the support of ministries, public authorities and civil society associations.
This year’s Imagine Cup drew over 300,000 applicants from around the world, a record for specialized technology competitions for university student. The nine specialties include: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, Robotics and Algorithm, IT Challenge, MashUp, Photography, Short Film and Design.
“We take technology for granted, but it impacts society, businesses and social lives greatly. The most impactful companies were started by students who believed they could change the world, said Ray Ozzie, chief software architect at Microsoft.
“By providing students with cutting edge technology and challenging them to address some of our world’s most challenging issues, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is tapping an incredible and limitless resource – the passion, creativity and talents of students from around the globe, Ozzie said.
Students are competing for more than $288,000 in prize money – given to the top three teams – and the chance to kick start their careers in one of several technological fields. Although Microsoft does not own the intellectual property rights of any of the participating projects, the corporation will act as a mediator between students and the UN or other interested organizations.
With their eye on the prize, these young students are focusing on innovation, the intense competition and directly networking with their colleagues and IT companies from around the world.
“Students have developed truly amazing solutions to tackle the most pressing social problems facing our world, it is clear that the leaders of tomorrow’s most innovative companies won’t be found in boardrooms, they will be discovered in dorm rooms, Wilson said.
The speakers stressed the importance of a strong technological infrastructure in our lives.
Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tarek Kamel said, “With this boom in IT, this is a lucky generation with better infrastructure that makes things easier. With the evolution of social networking tools that bring us together like Twitter and Facebook, it is easier for all of us to understand and be closer to each other.
A special award in the name of Suzanne Mubarak will also be given to the project that best addresses the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as well as those of the Suzanne Mubarak International Women for Peace Movement.
Four teams represent Egypt in different categories. The OTS project submitted by a team from Ain Shams University, winner of the local Imagine Cup finals, competes in the Software category. The project presents a software-based solution to traffic problems that can be adapted to climate changes at much cheaper costs than common traffic surveillance systems.
An Egyptian team from the Science and Culture Academy with their project Med Box participates in the Embedded Development category. Modern Academy student Sherif Talaat competes in the IT Challenge category with nine of the most outstanding students worldwide.
Meanwhile, project Big Buddy, which sets out to solve early education distance learning problems, designed by a team from the German University in Cairo, will be competing to win the special Suzanne Mubarak Award this year. The team was chosen from among 96 others representing 34 countries that applied in this category.
The Imagine Cup, launched in 2003, starts out with local contests to choose the winning teams that will represent different country at the global finals are held in a new location every year. The finals were previously held in Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, South Korea and France.
“The selection of Egypt to host this year’s global finals emphasizes the country’s successful strategy of boosting the local IT industry and its regional leadership and globally acknowledged position in the field, said Hoda Baraka, first deputy to the minister of communication and information technology.
“The competition is not only a chance for the best young calibers to meet and compete, but also an ideal opportunity for multinational companies to get in touch with local Egyptian ones, which opens many doors for cooperation that will benefit the industry, added Baraka.