During the last week of August, the Rades Omnisports Arena in Tunis was filled with the sound of 1000+ competitors, plus several hundred mentors, volunteers and support staff for an intense three-day AI Hack Tunisia, the largest event of its type ever held in the MEA region. The hard work was accompanied by impromptu and frequent dance parties, catnaps, and above all, unstoppable enthusiasm and skill from everyone on site as they worked from Monday morning through to Wednesday night.
Looking back at the event, InstaDeep CEO and co-founder Karim Beguir said, “AI Hack was an awe-inspiring exhibition of African AI and ML talent, and I have never been more sure that the future of AI lies within the young people that we’ve had the honour to host for the past few days. We will definitely be keeping a keen eye out for what they all do next!”
Alongside the main competitive element, AI Hack Tunisia featured sessions from many eminent industry experts, including:
- Google’s Global ML Programs Developer Lead Soonson Kwon spoke on how African developers can be part of the worldwide community;
- His fellow Googler, Andy Volk, described his experiences leading the sub-Saharan Africa developer ecosystem, and his thoughts on opportunities for the future of the region.
- InstaDeep’s own BioAI Lead, Nicolas Lopez Carranza, was also on stage, sharing his thoughts on the revolution happening within BioAI right now.
- And giving invaluable insider tips on UX for Startups was UX MasterClass trainer Nouha Jaafar from GDG Carthage and founder of the UXers and Lollipop.
These experts, plus dozens of other mentors and helpers, were in high demand by the participants throughout, offering their voices of experience and useful tips and tricks on the various competitions.
The first activities to start were the individual competitions, which ran for 20 hours from Monday morning. These consisted of 4 single track problems:
- Protein Location Prediction Challenge
- Beat the Enigma Machine
- Reading Comprehension
- Grocery Store Product Forecasting Challenge
Event sponsors NVIDIA and SnapAR also brought a new element to the event: completely separate sponsored hacks. The NVIDIA hackathon, presented by Wei Xiao, Director of Global AI Emerging Technologies, ran for 24 hours. It was a group challenge to create the best custom Video AI Application using the DeepStream SDK and featured a three-hour Deep Learning Institute course for the competitors.
Rayan Al Zahab, AR Developer Relations Lead MENA for Snap Inc, joined the event on a live video call to explain the SnapAR hackathon that would run in parallel during the entire 3 days of AI Hack. The challenge consisted of using Machine Learning to create a SnapAR Augmented Reality Lens that was aligned with one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
All six competitions were met with cheers from the attendees, the diversity of fields really playing into the competitive nature of AI Hack, and the contests kept participants hacking well into the night.
On Tuesday morning, the individual track came to its end and the startup competition was launched from the main stage by Co-founder and CWO Zohra Slim, who instructed the assembled teams to “Dazzle us and make us dream!”. The startup competition was a group challenge, where participants were asked to come up with an original and creative idea and build an app for it, based on a brief of bringing meaningful change to the participants region or country through the use of AI.
Competitors had only 24 hours to come up with their concept, and then build their prototype, business plans and pitch. All through the day and night, the experienced mentors were on-site to help them with any business, design, AI or software questions.
By Wednesday evening, following a full day of judging, almost 120 different start up ideas were whittled down to ten, and the finalists took the main stage to pitch live in front of the entire AI Hack audience and an esteemed panel of judges:
- InstaDeep Co-Founder and CEO, Karim Beguir.
- GoMyCode’s CEO Yahya Bouhlel.
- Wei Xiao, Global AI Emerging Technologies, NVIDIA.
- Kais Mejri, General Director of Innovation & Technology Development at the Tunisian Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines.
- Clara Guilhem, Director-General of Expertise France.
- Chief Innovation Officer at Novation City, Anas Rochdi.
- Rim Bejaoui, AI & Industry 4.0 Team Leader at GIZ.
Judges and participants were expertly MC’d through the live pitch contest by Zohra, who had also been a constant presence and source of support and information throughout the event for all attendees.
Following the pitching session, the judges retired to consider their verdict on the start up track, before the first of many prizes were announced, including the Snap AR Lens contest, and the prizes for the individual competitions, which all featured very enthusiastic crowd support for every winner.
Concluding this segment of the prize giving, Karim commended the incredible atmosphere and effort put in over the previous few days by all the participants, as well as the meticulous organisation by the InstaDeep team in Tunis to plan and host this huge undertaking.
Wei Xiao then took to the stage to announce the winners of the Nvidia Computer Vision mini hack, which featured a wide range of inventive applications of Nvidia technology, before the event moved onto the final prizes for the Startup competition. These were announced by Zohra as the three novel ideas that were felt to be the most exciting and potentially impactful startup concepts. First, second and third places were announced to a spirited and very warm-hearted reception from all present.
Once the prizegiving was complete, Zohra made closing remarks before announcing the official closing party, where the jubilant participants rushed forwards to sing, dance and congratulate each other on their achievements and successes of the preceding 72 hours, and bringing AI Hack Tunisia 2022 to an exhilarating close.
InstaDeep sincerely thanks everyone who attended, supported, spoke, volunteered and hacked over the 3 days of the event. Everyone’s contribution made it an unforgettable experience.