HiveColab Host a Hackathon

The following is a guest post kindly prepared by HiveColab about a recent Tech-in-Governance hackathon funded by Indigo.

The 15th and 16th November 2013 marked the start of technology revolutionizing governance in Uganda when Hive Colab with support from Indigo Trust hosted technologists and civil society organizations participants during a brainstorming session and a 48-hour hackathon of coding and pitching. The Tech-in-Governance hackathon was a reaction to the ineffective governance practices in various public sectors like health, transport and education  in Uganda.

The question of effective governance has lingered around office corridors in the country raising eyebrows about huge budgets with unexplained expenditures, unfinished and shoddy work, huge levels of corruption, lots of poverty, preventable disease outbreaks, poor educational services and ineffecient justice.

To embark on this project, Hive Colab organized a team of developers and provided some data and research prepared by the participating NGOs and CSOs from the brainstorming breakfast. We wanted to help them understand the nature and depth of some of the challenges they would be tackling.

In what became a heated brainstorming session on the first day of the hackathon, the developers had to come up with teams as a result of pitch sessions.  Four teams (Sindika, Road Conexion, Oil Watch, Brown Gold), out of nine were chosen to go through. Once thwe teams had been settled, we moved on to the next phase – problem and solution analysis.

At this stage the mentors and representatives from various participating organizations helped the teams to not only understand the challenges, but to build smart solutions around them while increasing efficiency and effectiveness in problem solving.

As the ideas developed, the teams started to think about how they could make the most of features like tagging photos, geo-mapping, and ‘Push & Receive’ interactive SMS platforms as opposed to the normal USSD ‘Push’ SMSs. By the end of day one, the discussions had shifted to laptop screens, with intense coding and programing, this time guided by the developers.

Working prototypes were ready for presentation on day two; the four teams through their leaders pitched their ideas to the judges:

Road Conexion (Winner): An informative reporting application that allows citizens to submit real-time reports with attachments (photos) and opinions on road and transport projects being implemented around the country. The vision of Road Conexion is an empowered citizenry that has access to information relating to the road and transport sector to help them make informed decisions and opinions as citizens. And better roads and transport infrastructure will provide a much needed boost to the development of the agriculture and manufacturing sectors that are heavily dependent on them. The system is built as an interactive mobile and web application. This application is also envisioned to be customized for other sectors with an introduction of an USSD coding system and photo tagging.

Sindika (2nd place): An interactive SMS platform that allows a user organization to engage citizens in a dialogue though short texts. This was specially built for controlled project environments, research, opinion studies and other related activities. It has an easy-to-use automated operating system that can keep the interaction going with less administration.

OilWatch (3rd place): A Windows 8 platform and web application that provides local citizens with information on the Ugandan oil sector. Citizens can quickly see who’s invovled and use data to hold them accountable. The application has a unique feature that directly engages the organizations responsible while making their responses public.

BrownGold (4th place): A tagging system for the all the logs bring ferried in the National Forestry logging areas/forests. It provides electronic chips that would be availed to the forestry authority at a cost, which would be implanted into the logs making it easy to trace them.

Hive Colab generously awarded the winners $1000, and runner-up $500 and incubation for all the four teams at Hive Colab. This comes with mentors and incubation training in 2014. Sam Muhanguzi, a technology expatriate from National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U) applauded the gesture of developers engaging in effective governance.

In its dedicated effort to foster technological startups and innovative solutions to society, Hive Colab is set to continue collaborating with different stakeholders to foster technology in governance in Uganda.