App Aimed at Crowdsourcing Arabic Text Digitization Takes First Place at NYU Abu Dhabi's International Hackathon

Press Release

A mobile application called قصاصات (Qusasat) or Arabic Snippets placed first at NYU Abu Dhabi’s fifth annual International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World on Sunday. The winning idea, which also won the audience choice award, is a “ReCaptcha-inspired” mobile application for crowd-sourcing Arabic text digitization.

The application would be used to crowdsource the creation of digital Arabic content from rare books, or archival documents that are not currently accessible or searchable digitally. This development would help to increase the availability of digital Arabic content while providing an opportunity for unemployed or marginalized Arabic speakers to collect points for content submissions which could then be donated or cashed in.

Arabic Snippets was developed by a team of local and international students including: William Held, NYU Abu Dhabi, UAE; Samr Ali, Abu Dhabi University, UAE; Ali Senhaji, Al Akhawayn University, Morocco; Rana Abul-Haija, Yarmouk University, Jordan; Katia Fahloune, Ecole nationale Supérieure d'Informatique, Algeria; Muhammed Al Sayadi, University of Sharjah, UAE; Abdullah Ibrahim, University of Sharjah, UAE; Balsam Alkouz, University of Sharjah, UAE; and Ohoud Al-Shawkani, King Khalid University, KSA.

The team was mentored by NYUAD Associate Professor of Computer Science Nizar Habash, NYUAD Research Assistant Salam Khalifa, and NYUAD Research Assistant Anas Shahrour.

Winning team member, William Held, NYUAD Class of 2019, said: “Arabic Snippets is such a delightful idea because it’s aimed at utilizing the latest tech trends for sustainable social impact. This weekend presented clearly to me how powerful it is to bring bright tech minds together with the biggest societal issues in the Arab world."

Hosted by the NYUAD Institute, the annual International Hackathon brought together students from around the world to work closely with mentors to develop innovative mobile and web applications relevant to diverse fields like health, education, film, music, business, and science for the benefit of social good.

Additional standout ideas included Sadiki, a personal assistant application for refugees, which was ranked second. While Fahmt, an online translator for informal Arabic and English, placed third.

Sana Odeh, NYUAD clinical professor of computer science and organizer of Hackathon said: “We are immensely proud of these students who conceptualized and developed ground-breaking mobile, web, hardware and virtual reality (VR) applications in just three days. The creativity and innovation demonstrated by our students and mentors highlights our ongoing commitment toward furthering technological innovation in the region.”

From sharing and generating ideas to learning new platforms and programming languages, this event has provided students across borders with the opportunity to build technologies that have the potential to change the world. For further information on the NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World, visit:

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.