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Gaza students develop app to reduce travelers' health risks

A new app, which won first place at the 2019 Arab Innovation Academy, helps travelers to identify diseases and health concerns around the world, and vaccines available.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Two Palestinian students have developed a new application that will help travelers to cope better with health risks. Salamat-e, a GPS-enabled health service application that can be downloaded to cellphones and tablets, will provide information to travelers on epidemic diseases around the world, enabling them to prepare for their travels by getting vaccinated, for instance.

“The Salamat-e app helps travelers and tourists to identify the types of diseases in the areas where they are traveling. It also explains methods of prevention before they travel, such as vaccines and medicine. If they get sick during their travels, the application will assist in locating hospitals and medical centers offering treatment,” Yafa Abd al-Rahim, a student at Birzeit University's Faculty of Business and Economics, told Al-Monitor.

She explained that the app regularly updates following media reports on health alerts and information shared by major hospitals and health institutions around the world.

Rahim and her friend Bashar Shawar, a student at the Faculty of Information Technology and Computer Engineering at Palestine Polytechnic University, are members of a multinational and multidisciplinary team of five that developed the app. The team also includes Tareq Osman Babiker, a medical student at Al-Neelain University in Sudan; Chaimae El Mahdaoui, a student at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Mohammed VI University of Morocco; and Polina Ladchenko, who studies marketing at MGIMO University in Moscow.

On Jan. 15, the team won first place in the 2019 Arab Innovation Academy (AIA) competition, in partnership with the European Innovation Academy, held at Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) in Doha. Their project was selected from more than 30 projects submitted by 200 students from 30 countries, according to the AIA website.

The AIA program aims to raise awareness about technological innovation and entrepreneurship by offering training to young talents who want to launch new technological products and services.

Rahim said that Salamat-e, which means e-health in Arabic, is still in development and will launch in the next few weeks on Android and iOS. Even though the application is in English, most of the content uses graphics that are easy to understand by users speaking different languages.

Shawar told Al-Monitor that the cost of launching Salamat-e, which includes design, programming and marketing services, is estimated at $20,000. AIA will cover these costs.

“On the first day of the competition, the participants presented their university's specialization. Then the teams were formed, taking into account the diversity of their academic disciplines,” Shawar said of the event in Doha that started on Dec. 30. “All the participants took part in training workshops with international innovation specialists from AIA. We were taught how to identify innovative ideas and turn them into fully executable creative ideas and market them within 10 days.”

Shawar noted that the members of his team possess a wide range of skills that contributed to the different aspects of the project. "Our team includes students of business, e-programming, marketing and health services, which helped us transform our idea into a viable project," he added.

Rahim said that she was chosen, along with Shawar, from among dozens of young technology and business entrepreneurs to participate in the AIA competition through the Palestinian Techno Park (PTP) in Ramallah.

PTP is a nonprofit organization established in 2016, in partnership with the Republic of India and Birzeit University in Ramallah. Birzeit University donated 20,000 square meters (5 acres) of land to PTP, while India funded the construction of the main building on an area of ​​8,000 square meters (2 acres), as well as other facilities such as open work spaces, conference rooms and innovation labs.

Mustafa Ali, the project manager for Creative Cluster Campus at PTP, told Al-Monitor that PTP is the first of its kind in the Palestinian territories and aims at establishing an infrastructure to enable growth in the Palestinian technology sector. He added, “PTP also aims to attract foreign investments to boost Palestinian technology, launch new technology projects in the Palestinian territories and develop new products.”

He concluded, “We are working on creating a favorable environment for Palestinian students to promote innovation and develop their technology ideas. We also provide them with opportunities to participate in local and international technology programs.”