At a time when we hear much more bad news than good, it is inspiring to see the positive energy, innovative ideas, and enthusiasm of professionals and students who came together, on a weekend no less, to create innovative solutions with the potential to make citizens’ lives easier.
This was the goal of the second annual Islamabad Civic Hackathon, organized by Code for Pakistan (CfP) and its Islamabad Civic Innovation Lab (ICIL), a joint program of CfP and OPEN Islamabad, which concluded on Sunday evening.
The civic hackathon was a two-day competition where civic-minded software developers, professionals, students, designers, data analysts, and innovators came together to innovate in public services by creating open-source technology solutions and digital tools to address civic and social problems faced by fellow citizens. This year’s sponsors included Arbisoft and Telenor Pakistan, and partners include Teradata, Invest2Innovate (i2i), Google Developers Group (GDG) Islamabad, Microsoft, The Nest I/O, and Media Matters for Democracy, among others.
The participants were encouraged to develop solutions around five themes: education, health, social change, sustainable city, and poverty and development. Experts in the fields of technology, business, design, health, education, and entrepreneurship mentored participants closely.
“It was inspirational… It makes me feel incredibly hopeful for Pakistan. It’s very easy to be pessimistic, but this is a different story. If these [participants] are all in charge of Pakistan in 10 years, then we won’t have any problems at all,” said Helen Kamal, Education Advisor with Ilm Ideas 2, about her experience as a mentor at the hackathon.
The event concluded with a prize distribution ceremony. The judges’ panel included Ather Imran (CEO, Sybrid (Pvt.) Ltd. and President, OPEN Islamabad), Yusuf Hussain (Founder and CEO of DM Ventures), Shabana Atif Khan (CEO, LMKT and COO, LMKR), and Mansoor Malik (Chairman, Kamyab Pakistan and Founding VP, TiE Islamabad).
First prize (Rs.75,000), sponsored by Arbisoft, went to Dastawezaat, and app to simplify the university application process. Second prize (Rs.50,000), sponsored by Telenor, was won by Chote Ustad, an app to connect students with tutors online. Third prize (Rs.25,000) went to three teams: Bagh Bagh; a mobile app to facilitate gardening enthusiasts; Bijli Pe Nazar, a mechanism for data collection of household energy consumption; and Shafaaf Voting, a mobile application to digitize the voting process in elections. The Audience Favourite award went to No Food Wasted, an online platform to tackle food waste and feed those in need.
Winning teams will receive assistance from Invest2Innovate, The Nest I/O and Global Shapers Islamabad, as well as access to services from Google and Microsoft worth thousands of dollars.
One of the judges, Ather Imran, CEO of Sybrid (Private) Ltd, said, “Cities and communities develop when its residents participate in its civic development. There could not be a better platform than Code for Pakistan’s Civic Hackathons, which give planners, academics, programmers, developers, designers and public sector representatives the opportunity to collaborate and use technology to develop innovative solutions to civic problems. The quality of ideas and participants in this Hackathon has been phenomenal, the organisation excellent and the energy and awareness generated remarkable.”
“I am always encouraged by platforms that aim to improve existing services by facilitating interaction between different stakeholders. Code for Pakistan has organized this hackathon to resolve civic problems, encourage citizen engagement and use technological tools to envision efficient, supportive and innovative systems. Some of the teams I spoke to have really interesting ideas with lots of potential. It’s also great to see so many people driven to solve city based problems,” said mentor Javeria Masood, Content Director at C- Design Thinking.
“I think it’s brilliant to see what’s happening here at the civic hackathon – people coming together, connecting and talking to each other to change Pakistan for good. It’s a great effort!” said mentor Saad Hamid, Innovation and Community Lead at Invest2Innovate (i2i).
Though we have started to see some public institutions move toward providing digital services, there is great potential to improve public services by leveraging innovative tech-based tools. Supporting more events like this will go a long way towards promoting civic engagement and civic innovation. “The key is adoption and sustainability of these initial solutions so that we can have a real impact. All of us, especially the public sector, need to proactively engage with these solutions and this platform to have meaningful impact,” Mr Imran said.