"Aspiring entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean should follow their dreams and never stop learning": interview with Jafar Albadarneh, startupper from Jordan

Jafar Albadarneh has reached the second place in the 2018 Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I competition, the annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from 136 emerging economies around the world promoted by U.S. Department of State. His startup ARtour, developed within the ENPI CBC Med funded "I AM" project, enables museums and tourist sites to offer new visiting experiences through augmented reality.

Born in 1992 in Jordan, Jafar was raised in large family consisting of 5 brothers and 4 sisters. With an early passion for technology and innovation, Jafar graduated in 2014 in Computer Information Systems from the Jordan University of Science and Technology and completed his studies with a Master’s degree  in Computer Science. That’s when he came across the I AM project which gave him the opportunity to develop his idea of using cutting-edge technologies, namely augmented reality, to revitalize the ancient cultural heritage found in Jordan. Since 2016, Jafar has also started a promising career as software development director of the Jordanian startup “Audiogram”. 

We caught up with Jafar to understand his vision and aspirations as a young entrepreneur of the Mediterranean area. 

Can you tell us more about "ARtour", your concept to enhance the experience of tourists visiting archeological sites?

 

As the tourism sector plays a major role in our national economy with a contribution of around 12% to the Jordanian GDP, all related services need to deliver the best possible experience to the visitors, especially foreigners, as to keep the image they'll be spreading about our country as shine as possible. Today's tourism practices lack decent interpretation tools. Some of the tools used to promote the heritage found in Jordan - like brochures, informational panels, signage and even tour guides - are inefficient and old-fashioned, compared to the technological transformations that have affected almost every aspect of our lives. ARtour is a platform that enables museums and archaeological sites to deliver an improved visiting experience using augmented reality, one of the powerful emerging technologies. The platform takes the tourism industry to a new level where visitors’ interaction and experience matter a lot in order to meet the visitors’ expectations and contributing to preserving cultural heritage sites. ARtour also focuses on getting the visitors more closer and connected to each other, providing shareable experiences across various nations.

From the government perspective, a lot of work is being carried out today to attract more visitors to the region, enhance the quality of the visiting experience as well as retain visitors as returning visitors. I think that ARtour is perfectly aligned with these goals.

You got involved in the I AM project, funded by the ENPI CBC Med Programnne. How did you learn about it and what are the main professional and personal benefits resulting from your participation in the project?

 

I learned about I AM project back in 2013, when I was in my last year at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (partner in the project - editor’s note). I was about to graduate and looking for something special to work on with my graduation project. Being one of the elite students at the computer information systems department, I was offered the chance to work as part of the I AM project, and I could not say no. Augmented Reality had been barely touched at that time, and I believed in the potential such technology will have in the near future. After graduating in 2014, I was selected to continue working on the project until it finishes. I am very proud with what the workgroup has achieved.

Professionally, I have learned a lot from this experience including new technologies, tools and techniques for heritage enhancement. With the I AM project, I participated in the Sixth Annual Conference on Undergraduate Research on Applied Computing in Dubai and won the best oral presentation award. On a personal level, this opportunity have taught me how to work with a diverse team, start thinking about my business and of course allowed me to further develop my idea, ARTour.

How do you plan to use the $2,500 USD money prize and $20,000 in Amazon Web Service credits you received as one of the 2018 Tech-I winners?

 

Although the cash prize isn’t that huge, I will mainly spend it on registering the company and start working on the first commercial demo of ARTour which can open doors for investment opportunities from the government or other sources. Financing our team’s operations today is very challenging and I hope that it will soon be the last thing to worry about.

What is your message for young entrepreneurs across the Mediterranean area? And how cooperation programmes like ENPI CBC Med can help support their aspirations?

 

My message for entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean area is to keep following their dreams and never stop learning. Success requires dedication, passion and hard work.

Personally, I would like to thank the European Union and the ENPI CBC Med Programme for conducting such an amazing cooperation initiative, that aims at building more capacities in the Mediterranean area and let people benefit from it. I was able to participate in one of the top entrepreneurial competitions in the world just because I succeeded in capitalizing on the knowledge and experience I gained with one of the projects funded by the ENPI CBC Med Programme.

About the I AM project

 

International Augmented Med (IAM) project focused on the application of innovative multimedia technologies in the management of cultural and natural heritage. Visitors of the project’s pilot sites were given the opportunity to rediscover various sites and monuments - such as the Library of Alexandria (Egypt), the El Khadr Greek-Orthodox church in Taybeh (Palestine), and the archaeological museum of Dar-es-Saraya in Jordan - under a new perspective thanks to the potentialities offered by 3D reconstructions, Augmented Reality installations or interactive illumination.

23.04.2018