By Alexander Southworth, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Exploring Tech in Iraq: ‘Hackasuly – Promoting Tech Literacy for a New Generation of Iraqis’

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. In a country which has seen its fair share of weapon misuse over the last few decades Mandela’s quote could not be more relevant in the climate of present-day Iraq.

With a beleaguered state education system and struggling infrastructure, there exists a community within the Tech Sector that is trying to navigate these challenges and promote education of Iraqi youths through the cultivation of digital skills that will help them reach their goals and find meaningful employment.

In the IBBC’s Tech Series: Exploring Tech in Iraq, we speak to some of the innovators and founders of tech organisations making a difference in Iraq.

One such organisation, HackaSuly, is an initiative that aims to promote technology in Sulaimani, Kurdistan and wider Iraq through tech events, hackathons, meetups and to create a network of tech enthusiasts.

We spoke to one of the founders, Hero Mohammed, to find out more about HackaSuly’s events, how they are empowering young Iraqis, the inspiration behind the founding of the organisation and any advice she has to aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

I believe there is a great potential in Iraq for the tech-industry. The people of Iraq are hungry for stability, innovation and facilities after decades of war and conflict” – Hero Mohammed, Founder of HackaSuly

Growing up in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, Hero describes her desire to participate in coding challenges and tech events but due to a near complete lack of opportunities, this simply was not possible. In 2015, she helped organise HackaErbil, the first Hackathon in Iraq, which would inspire her to embark on a journey to help others in the community to have the opportunities her peers did not have as college students. Building on the success of that first event, Hero started by organising the first hackathon in Sulaimani with the help of some friends.

So how exactly does HackaSuly help young coders through its events? HackaSuly is trying to help young coders to develop their skills and match them with the existing tech market demands. In the meanwhile, they are encouraged to update themselves with cutting-edge technologies and tools.

Until now, they have had three different types of events.

  1. Meet and code (Co-founded with Razhan Hameed): regular weekly coding meetups for coders and people who are interested in coding to come together, collaborate and share their knowledge and skills.
  2. HackaSuly Hackathon (co-organised with Snur Hamid): an annual hackathon that brings together developers, designers and entrepreneurs to come up with ideas that have a technological implementation, form teams and develop their prototypes over a weekend.
  3. Suli Tech Festival (Co-founded and co-organised with Razhan Hameed in collaboration with five one labs): a day-long tech celebration in Sulaimani. The Festival brought together young innovators and members of the local tech community with leaders and companies in the industry. The goal was to help promote technology, generate more interest in the field, and expand knowledge of career opportunities (from the participant’s side) and potential hires (from the business’ side) in the tech industry in Sulaimani. The Festival contained a number of exciting events over the course of the day, including: a welcome speech by the Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government, a Coding Challenge, an Intro Workshop to Web Development, a Tech Career Fair and Project Presentations.

While events of this nature may be common in more tech-developed countries, their establishment in Iraq brings many serious challenges. Hero describes how their ideas and events are new to the society in general and the biggest challenge has being delivering their message. Explaining the events and ideas especially when seeking funds and support have been challenging. When they first started with the HackaSuly hackathon, there was significant difficultly making people within the tech industry, even professionals, understand what a hackathon is.

Support has been key to growing the operation, Hero states great support has been forthcoming from local and international NGOs and private sector companies, especially those that are operating within the Iraqi tech industry, many as part of their Social Responsibility programs. More support is necessary to keep momentum growing, especially government contributions.

“I can imagine HackaSuly in 5 years… A large tech community across the country working together to make technology an important sector for the economic development of Kurdistan and Iraq” – Hero Mohammed, Founder of HackaSuly

Inspired by her strong love of coding and tech, Hero is one of the inspiring young innovators that are driving tech literacy and interest in a new generation of Iraqis. By creating a community of tech enthusiasts in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, HackaSuly is empowering young people to believe in their abilities, learn new skills and create for themselves tech start-ups in Iraq’s fast growing tech Sector.

As Hero states: Access to new technologies can have many benefits for any developing countries. One such benefit is its impact on reducing the costs of production. Other ways technology is helping developing countries is by boosting economies through innovation, SMBs and advanced communication.

IBBC is holding a Tech Conference in Iraq in early 2019, where we aim to bring together the key innovators transforming the digital landscape in the country, explore solutions to better governance and industry reforms using technology and give a platform to young Iraqi entrepreneurs breaking the mould. For more information, and to get involved, please email: London@webuildiraq.org or visit: https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/tech-conference-in-baghdad.

(Source: IBBC)

Air Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa’s first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC), has announced the launch of non-stop service to the city of Sulaymaniyah in the north of Iraq.

The new service from the carrier’s primary hub in Sharjah marks Air Arabia’s fourth destination in Iraq and 152 worldwide. From November 6, 2018, Air Arabia will offer two weekly flights to Sulaimaniyah, making it convenient for passengers travelling between both cities.

Offering convenient timings, the three-hour flight will operate twice per week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The outbound flight on Tuesday’s will depart from Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) at 05:00 and land in Sulaimaniyah International Airport (ISU) at 06:55 local time. The return flight will leave Sulaimaniyah at 07:35 and land in Sharjah at 11:05 local time.

On Fridays, the flight will depart from Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) at 15:00 and land in Sulaimaniyah International Airport (ISU) at 16:55 local time. The return flight will leave Sulaimaniyah at 17:35 and land in Sharjah at 21:05 local time.

Adel Al Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia, said:

“We are pleased to launch this new service to Sulaimaniyah, our fourth destination in Iraq, after Baghdad, Najaf and Erbil. We continuously seek ways to enhance airline connectivity with Iraq, given the growth in business ties between the two nations. The additional route is a testament to Air Arabia’s commitment to providing affordable air travel to our growing customer base.”

(Source: Air Arabia)

The Federal Republic of Germany, UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP), along with the administrative authorities of Halabja and Sulaimaniyah Governorates and Garmiyan and Raparin Administrations today initiated 12 projects to improve essential services for an estimated 680,000 people.

The projects target critical needs in the electricity, water, roads, and sewerage sectors and provide jobs for 819 people – including host community members, Syrian refugees and IDPs.

At the ceremony to launch the projects, the Deputy Governor of Sulaimaniyah, H.E Mr. Ahmed Ali Ahmed, said:

“Today we are signing agreements with UNDP to launch infrastructure projects with a total budget of close to US $2.5 million across Sulaimaniyah Governorate and Garmiyan and Raparin Administrations. This generous support from the Federal Republic of Germany, and collaboration with UNDP, comes as the KR-I continues to suffer from a severe economic crisis that began in 2013.

“Many challenges and increased pressure due to the large number of IDPs and refugees who are settling in the Kurdistan Region will be addressed through these fundamental basic-services projects, including improved electricity, water, roads, and sewerage systems.”

The Deputy Governor of Halabja, H.E Mr. Kawa  Ali Kareem, added:

“On behalf of the inhabitants of Halabja Governorate, including the IDPs, refugees and host communities, the office of Governor of Halabja expresses sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Republic of Germany and UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) for supporting implementation of four important basic services projects that will improve internal roads and sewerage systems.

“Implementation of these infrastructure projects will benefit close to 107,000 community members and create over 255 temporary job opportunities in Halabja alone.”

The construction of effective wastewater and sewerage networks across Sulaimaniyah City, Qaladiza, Hajiawa and Khurmal Sub-Districts, and Hawari-New Neighbourhood in Kifri City, will reduce environmental pollution and the spread of diseases amongst vulnerable populations during periods of high rainfall. In Sulaimaniyah City, the construction of an electricity distribution network will provide regular electricity supply to hospitals, schools, and water supply stations – benefitting the whole community.

In 2018, with continuous funding from the Federal Republic of Germany, ICRRP and governorate authorities in the Kurdistan Region or Iraq have supported 28 projects benefiting over 1,240,121 host community members, IDPs and refugees and providing livelihood opportunities for 1,273 individuals.

UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) promotes the recovery and resilience of communities vulnerable to multi-dimensional shocks associated with large-scale returns and protracted displacement of Iraqis and Syrian refugees.  This is achieved through a medium-term, programming integrating crisis management capacity building, rehabilitating basic service infrastructure, livelihood recovery and social cohesion.

(Source: UNDP)

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Human Rights Office (HRO), within its program of technical support to civil society organizations in the Kurdistan Region, conducted a “Specialized Training on Preparation of the Shadow Report for Treaty Bodies: the CEDAW Convention” in Sulaimaniyah.

Representatives from 21 NGOs in Sulaimaniyah participated in the training, 12 women and nine men. The training develops participants’ skills in collecting and analyzing the required information and data for the preparation of the shadow report for CEDAW Committee.

The due date to submit the shadow report of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was 1 February 2018 but it has not been submitted.

During the opening session, HRO representative Mr. Zito Siany commended the role of civil society organizations in promoting and protecting human rights through their communications with the related human rights treaty bodies.

Ms. Soma Yassin, one of the participants, stated that the training was very useful in producing shadow report for the CEDAW Committee.

“The contribution of NGOs at this stage of the process is essential as it is the best opportunity to ensure that issues of concern to NGOs find their way into the list of issues that can be the focus of the dialogue between the Committee and the State party”, she further said.

The group also intends to prepare shadow reports for Iraq’s next state reports for International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is due in Nov 2018 and Convention Against Torture which is due in August 2019.

(Source: UNAMI)

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has announced the reopening of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports to international flights.

In a statement, he said he signed the decree “following the response of the local authorities in the Kurdistan region to restore the federal authority to the two airports in accordance with the constitution, in order to facilitate the travel of citizens through Erbil and Sulaimaniyah international airports, The Kurdistan Regional Airports will be under the command and control of the Federal Ministry of Interior.

Dr. Haider Al-Abadi has said that the system of verification (Paysys) for the airports of the province and its frontier will be linked to the main system in Baghdad, as it is the case in other Iraqi ports and linking the passports and nationality departments and employees at the airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in the Federal Ministry of Interior, according to the law.

He added that a higher committee will be set up to oversee the management of airports in the region and its borders crossings, ensuring compliance with federal standards, including representatives of all concerned authorities in the center and the region and report to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces or authorized person.

(Source: Office of the Prime Minister)

A joint team from the World Bank and the Ministry of Water Resources visited Sulaimaniyah Province to assess the impact of the recent earthquake that hit the Iraq-Iran border on the Darbandikhan and Dokan [Dukan] Dams. Both dams are very strategic. They were built in 1961 for flood control, irrigation, drinking water supply and later power generation was added.

Concerns about the safety and management of these two dams were raised after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Iraq-Iran border on November 12, centered 30 km southwest of Halabjah in Iraqi Kurdistan, around 217 km northeast of Baghdad.

At the request of H.E. Dr. Haider Al-Abadi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, the World Bank mobilized a technical support mission to carry out a fact-finding assessment of the damage the earthquake has inflicted on the Darbandikhan and Dokan dams.

“We highly value the partnership between the Government of Iraq and the World Bank office in Baghdad and we appreciate the Bank’s prompt response and cooperation in answering the Ministry’s request for assistance in dealing with this emergency,” commented H.E. Hassan Al Janabi, Minister of Water Resources.

The objective of the Bank mission is to support the Ministry of Water Resources in preparing a detailed diagnostic of the damage that has been caused by the recent earthquake, reviewing the emergency preparedness plan, and preparing an action plan for managing the dams.

The mission found that the dam operator and the technical staff of the Ministry of Water Resources are managing the post-earthquake situation in a highly satisfactory manner. The extent of the further technical support needed will be based on the mission’s findings.

“The World Bank is working hand in hand with the Government of Iraq teams at the dam locations in carrying out a deep dive assessment of the damage caused by the earthquake and putting together a rehabilitation plan to address immediate and longer term concerns,” said Yara Salem, World Bank Iraq Country Manager.

(Source: UN)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Sulaimaniyah Governorate completed the rehabilitation of the main water network providing safe drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people.

UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) and Sulaimaniyah Governorate repaired key components of the main pipeline that transfers water from Dukan Lake to Sulaimaniyah Governorate. Pumping stations and a treatment plant were also rehabilitated to help alleviate water shortages and ensure an adequate supply of clean water to households in the Governorate.

At a ceremony on 5 July 2017 marking the completion of the project, Governor of Sulaimaniyah H.E. Omer Ahmed Amin, said:

“In Sulaimaniyah, one in every eight residents is an internally displaced person. The influx of displaced people is putting considerable pressure on public services, in particular water, electricity, health, and education. This project is providing a key service to all women, men and children in Sulaimaniyah.”

The Head of the Consular Office of Japan in Erbil, Mr. Moriyasu Katsumi, said:

“Japan is honoured to be a partner of this important project. We are delighted to see that all inhabitants of Sulaimaniyah, including internally displaced people and Syrian refugees, will equally benefit from improved access to the water supply.”

UNDP’s Programme Manager for ICRRP, Ms. Mizuho Yokoi, noted:

“Water is essential for life. We are glad we contributed to such an important basic service project focused on improving the well-being of vulnerable communities. We thank the Sulaimaniyah Governorate for their cooperation and the Government of Japan for the generous contribution which made this project possible.”

The first step to recovery, after a crisis, is ensuring people have access to basic services. UNDP’s ICRRP is supporting local authorities to deliver services that are fundamental to daily life. Over 2.4 million people in Iraq have access to improved basic services like water, electricity, health, education, sewerage and roads thanks to UNDP.

(Source: UNDP)

GE (NYSE: GE) has signed a contract with ENKA to supply power generation equipment for a new 750-megawatt (MW) combined-cycle plant being developed by Qaiwan Group in Iraq.

GE will provide four 9E gas turbines and one steam turbine for a new power plant in Sulaimaniyah to support the government’s goal of strengthening the electricity infrastructure in the Kurdistan region.

GE has played a key role in supporting the region’s focus on providing uninterrupted power for its people and driving industrial growth. Through its regional partnerships, GE’s turbines support more than 90 percent of the electricity generated in the Kurdistan region, supplying nearly 20 hours of electricity a day.

The new power plant in Bazyan marks the fourth power project that GE is supporting with its heavy-duty gas turbine technologies in the region.

The Erbil, Sulaiymaniyah and Dohuk plants, powered by 24 GE 9E gas turbines, produce more than 3,000 MW, the equivalent to the required annual energy needs of approximately 3 million households in Iraq. The Bazyan plant will help deliver power to an additional 750,000 households.

Saad Hassan, CEO of Qaiwan Company, said:

“The Bazyan power plant is expected to address the growing demand for power in the Kurdistan region. Our objective is to enhance its operations through a combined-cycle plant with reliable and advanced technologies that contribute to greater efficiency in the long run. GE’s gas and steam turbines are an ideal fit to our requirements.”

Fehmi Bayramoglu, member of the executive committee, ENKA said:

“The Bazyan project is one of our key contracts in the region, which we are committed to developing as per an aggressive project schedule. Having worked with GE on three earlier projects in the region, we are confident of the additional value that the company’s technologies bring to the project.”

Mohammed Mohaisen, CEO, GE Power Generation Products and Services Sales, Middle East and North Africa said:

“With over 40 years of presence in Iraq, GE is committed to supporting its developmental goals to build a strong electricity infrastructure. Our contract for the Bazyan power plant is the fourth with ENKA in this region, highlighting the trust of our partners in delivering advanced technologies that strengthen the efficiency of power projects. GE’s gas and steam turbines will assist in enhancing plant operations that support the rapidly growing industrial area of Bazyan.”

(Source: GE)

The opening of Grand Millennium Sulaimani Hotel in Sulaimani, Iraq, took place on March 2nd, 2014.

VIPs, guests and media across the country witnessed the grand opening of what is to become the benchmark of hospitality in Kurdistan and Iraq, and an architectural landmark for Sulaimani. Grand Millennium Sulaimani is today the tallest hotel in Kurdistan and Iraq.

Developed by Faruk Holding and managed by Millennium Hotels and Resorts Middle East, Grand Millennium Sulaimani marks the third project collaboration between the two companies.

The 39-storey Five Star Hotel offers 253 guest rooms, 55 luxury suites, seven executive suites, and a presidential suite. These features, along with the iconic structure, have made Grand Millennium Sulaimani an architectural marvel.

When it comes to cuisine, Grand Millennium Sulaimani has three luxurious venues: a Lebanese restaurant, an all-day international dining lounge and a lavish revolving restaurant located at the hotel’s towering peak, giving guests a panoramic view over the whole city.

This Five Star hotel, offers a modern auditorium equipped with the latest audio-visual technology and a total seating capacity of 362 people; a ballroom facility for up to 800 people; as well as nine meeting rooms of different sizes, is set to become the hub for local and regional conventions, conferences, corporate and public events.

By John Lee.

The German company Gebr Pfeiffer has received another order from China-based Sinoma (Suzhou) Construction Co Ltd for a cement raw material grinding mill in Sulaymaniya.

According to a report from Global Cement, the “MPS 5000 B” vertical roller mill has a capacity of 500tph at a product fineness of 10 per cent R 80 µm and will come equipped with a 4000kW gear unit.

In addition to supplying the core components of the grinding plant, the order includes engineering services to enable the local manufacture of mill components and the supervision of manufacture at Chinese workshops.

(Sources: Global Cement, ICR)