We’ve seen hackathons… in fact a lot of them. But this is different. HackaDev 2015, as they brand it’s “Sri Lanka’s First Social Innovation Hackathon”. It’s an initiative by the United Nations Development Programme, better known as UNDP Sri Lanka, in partnership with Dialog Ideamart. This is a hackathon that revolves around 3 core issue pillars – Civic Engagement, Electronic Waste Management and Enterprise and Employment. Hacking for good indeed.
Now this might sound unfamiliar. You have heard of hackathons but what exactly is a social innovation hackathon? To find that out, we were at their Pre Hack session.
This was an awareness session for the participants. Here they were briefed by representatives from UNDP on issues around three pillars. The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Archana Heenpella and Sulaiman Rameez.
Afterwards, it was Shafraz Rahim with an introduction to what Ideamart is. He opened with a powerful display of IdeaMart’s power. One SMS is all it takes to give Rs.5 to the SOS Children’s Village. Thanks to IdeaMart.
With a picture of a forest projecting on the screens, He said:
“A forest is an ecosystem, so is Ideamart.”
He then shared the story of Ruwan Dissanayake along with many other inspirational stories of apps and businesses build up on the same ecosystem.
Next up was Isuru Somasinghe, a youth lead at UNDP Sri Lanka who answered the question “What is HackaDev?”
“Never forget this quote. You can impact society. Together, let’s innovate.” – Isuru Somasinghe
It was this slide that he wanted everyone to remember. The tagline of the hackathon; “Impact through Innovation”, innovation has become a necessity to survive he said. What sets you apart is not finding a solution but finding an innovative one. With Isuru concluding his presentation it was clear, that the sole purpose of HackaDev is to bring out innovative solutions to real-world problems we face as a society.
Next up were the presentations. This segment included three presentations each explaining a problem society faces, possible solutions and what is expected from the participants in each case.
“Enterprise development is one of the most feasible methods to create employment. – Asitha Kodithuwakkuge”
Mr. Asitha Kodithuwakkuge a Livelihood and Local Economic Development Specialist from UNDP Sri Lanka was the presenter for this pillar. This pillar was about empowering entrepreneurs and increasing employment across Sri Lanka.
The first problem under this pillar is Market Information Sharing. He stated “Getting information is a very challenging task. There are lots of gaps and issues between both ends. So both parties go through struggles.” What are the two ends? The supplier and the customer. For example, the farmers and the end market. Both the parties face troubles because of poor communication. Each and every problem on either side creates a counter effect on the opposite end.
Making life easier, Asitha demonstrated a proposed solution to this. Participants were encouraged to use this as inspiration to come up with their own innovative solutions. However he highlighted, “Your solution should be user-friendly and a very simplified yet efficient system which would address all of these issues.”
This is the second issue under this pillar. Unemployment is one of the most daunting economic challenges faced by the youth in former conflict-affected areas and adjacent districts. This is where the YED, the Youth Enterprise Development process comes in. It’s aim is to promote enterprise development in the target districts. This is done by increasing the opportunities and capacities of youth to engage in income generating activities. But there is limited inter-district connection and interaction between the young entrepreneurs. This hinders their ability to share expertise, best practices, and promote services or products they produce.
This is because the lack of a proper dedicated network infrastructure. The solution he proposed was pretty simple.
“Say you want to startup a business. But it is difficult to get the information you require.” This has been identified as the third problem under the pillar. We all know how difficult it is to find about things like this in Sri Lanka. Most of the time we are completely lost; we have no idea who we need to speak to, what organizations or government bodies and the list goes on. According to Asitha, what we need is a centralized portal with the information required in order to overcome this situation.
“Form cradle to coffin, our life is so much associated to E items” – Sugandhi Samarasinghe
Electronic Waste is an electronic or electrical item which is out of use as it is outdated beyond repair or has ended its lifespan. Pause. Think for a while. How much e-waste have you produced? This was the second pillar of the program.
Next up on stage was Ms. Sugandhi Samarasinghe a Project Associate at UNDP Sri Lanka.
There are three key issues that have been identified based on this pillar. Namely; Disposal Techniques, Safety Information & Impact Awareness and Island-wide E-waste Collection.
“My daughter asked for a dongle on her 4th birthday.” – Sugandhi Samarasinghe
During her presentation; she stated that 60-65 Metric Tons of E-waste is being generated annually in Sri Lanka. The majority of this number is made up by mobile phones. One of the key issues is due to the consumers’ lack of knowledge about toxic materials and the proper disposal methods. Therefore, this results in E-Waste getting mixed with domestic waste and going to waste dumps.
Sugandhi also discussed the actions taken so far by the government and private bodies. As an example, she refers to Green Cess and the MOU CEA signed with Dialog along with 13 other companies to establish island wide collection systems for used mobile phones. But this isn’t very effective. We need a proper system and you have a chance to build it.
Civic Engagement is the third and the final pillar that will be addressed at the HackaDev 2015 Pre Hack. Ms. Sonali Dayaratne; a Policy Specialist at UNDP Sri Lanka was invited to talk on this.
“We just can’t leave it up all to the politicians.” – Sonali Dayaratne
Anything related to politics is a hot topic every time! It was proved yet again as the tweeps started blasting as this presentation moved on.
— Fadhil Bakeer Markar (@fadhilbm) August 25, 2015
Coming back to the pillar, it was about empowering citizens to play a more active role in government. This too concentrates on three areas: Bribery and Corruption, Parliamentary Outreach and Volunteerism.
“We can make a difference.” – Sonali Dayaratne
With the current face change of politics in Sri Lanka this was one of the most interesting topics that had been addressed ever at a Hackathon.
To find out more about HackaDev 2015, you can visit their Official Page.
With few more days remaining to submit your ideas if you do have any queries or concerns you could try contacting Isuru Somasinghe ([email protected]) or Shafraz Rahim ([email protected]). As that marked the end of the Pre Hack session we will see you again on the big day to witness some serious hacking. Show the world the power of youth. The power to innovation lies inside you.
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