NBO’s Hackathon builds on the goals that were set by the government’s National Program for Enhancing Diversification ‘Tanfeedh’. It has inspired a new way of thinking that focuses on value creation as well as new sources of revenue through innovation and technology. This experience also sought to instill confidence in the prospects and opportunities that are available to aspiring entrepreneurs and talented innovators.
Over the 24-hour period, students, computer programmers, software developers and innovators joined industry experts and professionals to create or modify technological solutions to shape the way banks serve customers across the country.
During the opening ceremony, Ahmed al Musalmi, CEO at NBO, said, “NBO is delighted to welcome some of the country’s most ambitious and talented individuals to the biggest Hackathon in the sultanate. Promoting and encouraging innovation is a key theme for the bank, and we are extremely proud to see such a huge turnout for this milestone occasion. NBO is committed to driving technological innovation, playing an active role in building a brighter future for the youth and entrepreneurs across the country and supporting Oman’s wider social and economic objectives. We were truly impressed with the range and depth of innovative ideas that were developed and inspired by the talent we have across the country and the region.”
The innovative event included different areas where contestants would recharge their drive to create. This included a gaming area, rest zone, food trucks and an innovation corner showcasing the latest cutting-edge technology, giving participants the opportunity to have fun and network with various technological experts from across the region. A think tank was also at the event, with mentors available around the clock to guide and support each of the participants.
Under the auspices of H E Talal al Rahbi, Deputy Secretary General of Supreme Council for Planning, a prize-giving ceremony followed the Hackathon, where six short-listed teams presented their developed ideas and prototypes to a diverse panel of local and international judges: Khaled Havas, head of Information Technology, Dubai Finance Market; Hamad al Hamdoun, director of SAS Center for Entrepreneurship; Peter Bryant, entrepreneurship associate professor, IE Business School; and John Chang, chief retail banking officer at NBO.
Participants were judged on four criteria: Business value, innovation, originality and prototype quality and readiness. Two winning teams - a group of students and a group of professionals - were selected, with each receiving RO2,000, and the runner-ups receiving an RO1,000 cash prize each.
After 24 hours of innovative thinking, the winning team’s idea was an intelligent and innovative chat bot concept that enables customers to do all their banking via a very simple and interactive messenger app. The runner-ups in the student category, a group of 15 year old students, introduced concepts that give children a unique banking experience, while enabling parents to track, monitor and support their children’s financial decisions. The professional category saw a team from Oman and Bahrain win with their innovative ‘Association’ app. While a family of inventors from Rustaq won the hearts and minds of the audience with their ‘smart bank’ concept, an Internet of things concept that enables banks to efficiently and remotely control their operations in a more sustainable manner, the idea was inspired by the family’s 11 year old son.
Sayyidah Rawan Ahmed al Said, chairperson of the board of directors at NBO, said, “On behalf of NBO, we would like to thank the participants for making Oman’s biggest Hackathon a successful event. Countries all over the world, and particularly in this region, are rapidly diversifying to support economic prosperity and employment opportunities. Globally, a culture of innovation is gathering pace and transforming every aspect of day-to-day life. Under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman is embracing this culture and welcoming trends like automation and digitalisation to secure an even brighter future for the people of this country. While we take immense pride in supporting the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, the Hackathon event is one of many stepping stones that we will utilise to contribute to the sultanate’s success.”
The Hackathon platform emanated from NBO’s commitment to inspiring innovation. It started with NBO’s internal innovation lab, ibtikar, which encourages employees to develop innovative prototypes to significantly enhance customer experience. NBO’s innovation journey will continue to produce innovation platforms in the near future.