The World Bank hosted the country’s first ever Water and Sanitation Hackathon at the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT).
The hackathon which took place at the end of February, brought together over 25 programmers from all over the country to participate in a 48-hour marathon to develop digital solutions that could improve water and sanitation services for consumers in Zimbabwe.
A hackathon – also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest- is an event where computer programmers and others involved in software and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers, and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects over a short period.
The aim of this hackathon was to showcase how technology can be an enabler to solve everyday water and sanitation challenges. Zimbabwe’s World Bank country manager, Camille Nuamah, said it was hoped that the hackathon would develop new applications to help improve service delivery.
“The hackathon is a complement to the recently approved National Water Development Project that will rehabilitate water and sanitation services in seven small towns, as well as improve water resources planning and support the reform of the water sector nationally,” said Nuamah.
Hackathon coordinator Mutsa Samuel explained that they chose to focus on water and sanitation because it was also part of the World Bank’s global initiative to improve water and sanitation provision within communities.
“Zimbabwe faces harsh water conditions and we should not be living like this. This is the 21st century and we have enough technology to improve the living conditions of our people. So it is very important that we focus on this [water and sanitation],” explained Samuel.
The participants were split into six groups and after spending the first day working furiously on their projects, presented their innovations to the audience on the second day. All groups developed applications that focused on improving communication between residents and local authorities as well as on easy data capturing methods for authorities. At the end, the projects faced adjudication.
The judges – who were drawn from various backgrounds – awarded E-Council, the application aimed at bridging the gap between residents and their local authority the winning entry. In second place was an innovation called DARA followed by ZIMWASA in third place.
Martin Ndlovu from Bulawayo who spoke on behalf of the E-Council group, said that the hackathon presented participants with much-needed exposure and promised to try to implement their winning innovation in his hometown, “I am going to carry on as an entrepreneur and continue coming up with solutions to help my community.”
The Participants who came up with the three winning applications received various prizes and a chance to present their ideas to other stakeholders. Organisers hope that local authorities and government will embrace these technological innovations in order to improve water and sanitation services.
Image: Programmers working on their innovations at the hackathon.