IBM organized a hackathon event this week in Lagos, Nigeria, under the theme of “mobile payment.” I was lucky to be invited to attend, speak and support the event.
So what is a hackathon? A hackathon, analogous to a marathon, is an event where brilliant people come together and collaborate intensely for a few days. They work together on innovating an application or an idea. At the end of the event this innovation is presented to a judging panel to determine the winners.
Enablement and competition
IBM brought together some of the most brilliant students in Nigeria to attend the Lasgidi Hackathon. The first two days of the event started with enablement sessions to get the students up to speed on various IBM technologies. The enablement included hot shot technologies like IBM Big Data, IBM BlueMix, IBM DB2, IBM Worklight and many more.
On the third day the real hackathon competition started. The students were divided into ten groups, and we had an “ideation session” to help them formulate ideas and organize their thoughts. I was blown away with the ideas that the students came up with, and I was sure I would see something remarkable by the end of the competition.
Students spent all of the third day and most of the fourth working hard on their projects. They were exhausted and sleepless but they were firing with motivation.
Presenting new ideas
At 5:00pm on the fourth day the big moment came. Each group was given the opportunity to present their idea and its implementation to the judging panel. The prestigious judging panel included IBM Distinguished Engineers, members of the IBM management team, IBM business partners and a former software group manager in West Africa.
I was correct! The ideas they came up with did blow me away, and that wasn’t the only thing to surprise me. As a technical person I was amazed with the amount of code they wrote in only two days. They came up with complete, implemented apps in this very brief period.
The winning idea was an astonishing one proposed to solve one of Nigeria’s real problems—a pregnancy miscarriage rate that’s one of the highest in the word. The winning group came up with a framework to help address this problem. The solution includes a mobile app to which pregnant women register at the beginning of their pregnancy. The app helps women regulate doctor visits and vaccination shots. In the more poor areas where mobile phones are not as common, the app is used by local health centers to track women during pregnancy. The app also utilizes mobile payments so that infants can have their own wallet account before they are even born. What starts with a simple mobile app could turn out to be the backbone for a whole health sector in Nigeria.
Other winning ideas included applications that address problems in Nigeria like bad traffic, waste management, vehicle management, voting and political interaction, and much more.
By the end of the event everybody was a winner. The students won prizes, grew their knowledge and interacted with some of IBM’s leading figures. IBM won by helping a young crowd become motivated and excited about IBM technologies. And I personally won by participating in this soul-refreshing activity. Being around young, motivated students helps you regain your passion and recharge your motivation batteries, and this exactly what happened to me at the event.
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