What happens when IT students, local governments, IT companies and sanitation experts meet on a sunny day on a grass field at a university campus?
The 2011 Water Hackathon was a great success, not only in the development of apps, but in bringing together two sectors – water and ICT – to identify ways to tackle the world’s pressing water issues. This year, the Sanitation Hackathon builds on the momentum of that success.
In the aftermath of the Water Hackathon, lessons learned highlighted two factors. First, the hackathon should be seen as a continuous process, not as a one-stop event. Second, the hackathon report pointed out the importance of long-lasting relations with the ICT sector in developing apps to tackle poverty.
The Hackathon team in Bangladesh wanted to address these two issues by organizing a pre-hackathon Innovation Expo. Bringing students, companies, local government leaders to the same arena, the expo functioned as an innovation hotspot.
The invited companies are undoubtedly some of the most promising small- and medium-sized IT firms in the country. These companies included, Bkash, which offers financial services via mobile phone; Kothay, which develops maps offering different types of location data; AjkerDeal, which helps in finding the best deal for your favorite product; and BizCube, an incubation lab. The companies received suggestions from students and local governments for developing their services further to tackle the problem statements.
The government leaders came from 12 different districts across Bangladesh to present their problem statements to the IT students. It is highly unusual for the two groups to engage in a dialog. The expo led to many interesting conversations between IT firms, the chairmen and the students, about developing new innovations for tackling the problems discussed.
The expo, which attracted some 1,500 students, was the starting point for the registration for Sanitation Hackathon. Word of mouth should ensure that we will have a house full of techies on the hackathon weekend. The IT firms now feel more engaged after seeing the huge crowd of excited students and the devoted local leaders, so we are expecting a strong, continuous partnership from the companies’ side too.
As a proof of this, the participating companies have agreed to provide mentors for the hackathon event, and the most enthusiastic CEOs have presented great ideas about post-hackathon activities.
Hackathon Site Leader, Dhaka, Bangladesh