Saturday, 1 August 2015

A DAY’S EXPERIENCE OF A HACKATHON FANATIC.


It had been a long three days as several teams groomed ideas to tackle some of the most challenging aspects in accessibility to sexual reproductive health among the youth in the world. The main organisers  of the Hackathon UNFPA, selected diverse teams to encompass participants from all over the world, each with a special skills set including UN staff, health experts, software programmers and engineers and some of Reach A Hand (RAHU) peer educators.

The contestants brainstorming ideas

The groups possessed the strangest names to a lay man but each name stood for a unique bond and aspiration that all group members shared, from “Olympians for Tulumbe (O4T)” to “Hacktivate Youth” to “Put It On.” Each group had a unique idea that aimed at addressing a major youth sexual reproductive challenge through a mobile application. Every group had devised ways to market their app and attract the youth to use it. This involved having a youth friendly user interface and accurate reproductive health information in its most subtle form. Confidentiality was the key ingredient for every app because the youth would never wish to have their secrets shared with a third party.

I spoke to one of the energetic participants, a peer educator from Reach A Hand, Emmanuel Kateregga a.k.a (Stick) as his friends referred to him. I asked him for quick one about his experience at the 2015 Hackathon. With a big smile on his face, he raced through the words as he explained how great his experience had been. “ It has been an exciting and mind blowing experience for me because I have had the opportunity to share ideas with high profile people in a neutral atmosphere. I have met people I never thought I would meet in life,” he exclaimed enthusiastically “My group focused on ending sexual harassment among the youth. Our application, “Safe Pal”contains information about sexual harassment with an action plan to help any youth in case they have been harassed and it offers real time connections to authorities to prompt immediate action. I am positive our idea is brilliant and will save many lives” he concluded.

I moved on to interact with several members from other groups and boy did they have awesome ideas! In my opinion all groups were winners because I have not yet come to terms with the possibility of people creating a mobile app from scratch in just three days but apparently it was a walk over for some groups.

Mr. Ahmad addressing the contestants after the presentations
It was then time for the groups to present their great ideas to panel of judges, who included the UN Secretary General's Envoy on Youth Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) technology expert and research scientist Mr. Kenneth Paik. It was tough race ahead but the teams displayed an unwavering determination. Each group had five minutes to illustrate their idea and show a demo of the application on the screens. One by one the groups presented their ideas as the judges critiqued and challenged them.

We had a short break and our attention was back to the main stage to know which teams had generated the best ideas.  Team “Hackers ASHRICA” was the second runner up and team O4T surfaced first runner up.  With a cloud of tension and high expectations the remaining teams warmed up in waiting for the winner. Finally team “Put It On” emerged as victor with their quiz app "TriGivia." The whole place was absolved in a beam of jubilation as team “Put It On” members marched to the stage to join the other winning teams and immediately set off a dance in celebration.
Team "Put It On" celebrating their victory


After a long day of seeing the potential of the youth in creating reliable strategies for change, I was convinced that the future is bright.  I cannot wait to see what happens in the next Hackathon. 


(Image credit to Mr. Kintu Kenny)

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