Syrian Refugee in
Ireland Wins Science Award

MSc Computer Science graduate, Suad Al Darra, pictured center with Techfugees Challenge judges from L-R: Mike Butcher, Chairman of Techfugess; Marwan Elfitesse, Startup Relations Director at Station F; Nina Heir, Program Manager at Katapult Accelerator; and Joséphine Goube, CEO of Techfugees.

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
March / April 2019

Suad Al Darra, a master’s student studying computer science at NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics, was one of five winners at the recent Techfugees Global Challenge competition. Inspired by her own personal displacement journey, Suad discovered the power of big data during her studies and entered her “Refugees Are” project, a news analysis platform that aims to map public opinion around refugees, into the competition.

The program can help identify locations with negative stories in their media about refugees, essentially mapping public opinion on the subject, in order to target the problem of xenophobia and dispel news “bubbles.”

The tone of media coverage has real-life implications for refugees as they attempt to assimilate into a new country or community after being forced to leave their old home. Al Darra says, “The goal is to tackle the problem of xenophobia against refugees created by the media, which is negatively affecting their hope of integrating and starting a new beginning.”

After graduating from Damascus University in 2008 as a software engineer and working at several tech companies, Al Darra and her husband moved to Ireland in 2014, escaping the conflict in Syria and looking for a better future. While a student at NUI Galway, she had her first child.

Conor Hayes, Program Director of the MSc in Data Analytics at NUI Galway, said, “Suad fashioned an award-winning data analytics project on a subject that is hugely relevant to the many other displaced families and people in the world.”

The Techfugees Global Challenge competition sought the most innovative new projects that use technology to help displaced people, refugees, and NGOs. The competition’s project applications went through an international jury of experts, who selected 25 finalists from hundreds of applicants from 52 countries across the world. The projects were then pitched in front of an international jury at the Techfugees Summit in Paris. Suad’s project was one of five final winners. ♦ Patricia Harty

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