Why the Hussain Sajwani – DAMAC Foundation stands strong behind the One Million Arab Coders Initiative

For a society to be productive, healthy and happy, it is imperative to recognise and invest in its most promising asset, its future. Right now, young Arabs below the age of 25 constitute nearly half of the region’s population1. By 2030, this number is projected to rise even further and a significant share of this young population will be prime working age. There is a growing need to invest in enabling youth to prepare for a fast-changing global work place. This need was pre-empted by our visionary leader, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, when he launched the One Million Arab Coders initiative last year.

The idea was simple – empower a future generation of one million Arabs by providing them access to free software development training to future-proof their skills.

The widespread appeal for such an initiative has been evident from the results of the first two program cohorts. Led by Dubai Future Foundation, and powered by the world-class and accessible higher education platform Udacity, the initiative continues to see more students enrolling into the programme, while additional tutors and partners have joined us to support this growing community. So far, the initiative has attracted over a million interactions by over 600,000 interested candidates from 194 countries. During the first and second cohort, 250,000 students have been admitted in this unprecedented initiative.

While the numbers are impressive, the more significant fact is the eagerness among the youth of this region to be part of the future. Students of this initiative fare way better in terms of drop-off rates, staying on track, and submitting projects on time when compared with other educational programmes running on Udacity’s global platform.  As we begin to see the change that we had hoped to create through this initiative, it is imperative to recall what we set out to achieve.

Employment – Today and Tomorrow

The ninth annual Arab Youth Survey of 2017 revealed some key insight into how the youth of the region perceive their future. While unemployment emerged as the biggest obstacle, the majority of youth outside the GCC believed that their education system is not doing enough to prepare them for future jobs. In the Arab world, two out of five graduates are unemployed. The One Million Arab Coders initiative offers a parallel education platform for Arab youth across the world to learn and prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and directly increases employment opportunities for them. Currently, only 13 percent of the region’s tertiary-educated workers have graduated in subjects related to Information Technology (IT)2. In a job market where the demand for IT professionals is constantly rising, this poses a real threat. The initiative’s primary objective is to provide the skills necessary to enable the region to thrive in a rapidly digitalizing world.

Lifelong Learning

Learning never stops; it is a lifelong process. The One Million Arab Coders initiative encourages Arab youth to keep learning to better equip themselves for future disruption in technology and the job market. Over 61 percent of candidates admitted to the One million Arab Coder program are students who hold diplomas or higher education degrees. These are professionals who are striving to re-invent themselves and now have a platform to do so.

Empowering Women

The Middle East and North Africa is utilizing 30 percent less of its female capacity than the global average3. While women in the region are highly educated, and obviously capable, their potential to contribute to the labour market has not been fully utilised. If the region is to grow in the coming years, enabling women to participate in the formal economy is of paramount importance. The One Million Arab Coders initiative aims to create an inclusive platform for women in the region to equally partake in the making of a prosperous future. The results were astounding. Women have shown keen interest in this initiative and currently represent 27% of the students admitted to the programme. What’s most interesting is that the majority of tutors who volunteered to teach in this initiative are also women. This is just the beginning.

What is next?

Today, the initiative has evolved into a global community that includes students who are opting to redefine themselves, tutors that are dedicating their time to help students learn, and corporate institutions that are investing their knowledge and resources towards the cause. Promoting sustainable causes for the betterment of society is the founding principle of the Hussain Sajwani – DAMAC Foundation, and we are proud to have adopted this initiative, which offers a direct path to a prosperous future. We urge all lifelong learners and teachers across the Arab world to join this initiative, this revolution; and drive the future of this world instead of merely adjusting to it. To register for the next cohort or find out more, please visit www.arabcoder.ae.

[1] https://social.un.org/youthyear/docs/Regional%20Overview%20Youth%20in%20the%20Arab%20Region-Western%20Asia.pdf

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/05/jobs-skills-middle-east-north-africa/

[3] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/05/jobs-skills-middle-east-north-africa/