Home Business Youths proffer SDGs-aligned ICT solutions to solve post-COVID-19 socio-economic challenges

Youths proffer SDGs-aligned ICT solutions to solve post-COVID-19 socio-economic challenges

by Byron Adonis Mutingwende

The 2020 Hackathon saw teams competing in proffering the most relevant ICT solutions to solve post-COVID-19 socio-economic challenges that may hinder the country’s efforts towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The hackathon ran under the theme “#Hacking for SDGs post-COVID-19 and beyond” and was held in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city of Bulawayo last week.

Applications for the competition opened on 9 November 2020, and closed on 22 November 2020, with a total of fifty-three (53) valid applications having been received. Three (3) applications were received after the deadline and these were not accepted.

Adjudication was done on the basis of an agreed template by an adjudication team comprising six (6) external judges, drawn from academia and two from POTRAZ.

Out of the fifty-three (53) applications received, only twelve (12) teams scored 50% or better, which was the lowest threshold for a proposal to be supported under the Innovation Drive. Four of the successful  teams are from here in Bulawayo, four are from Harare and we have one team each from Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mash Central and Masvingo Provinces.

The innovators were camped at the Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel from Wednesday 2 December 2020 to develop their prototypes.

On 4 December 2020, the teams showcased their prototypes. From this exercise, the judges came up with the best 5 innovations that received grants for product development.

The LK-Flight Tech who came up with the project of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Tech for Effective Delivery of Medical Essentials was judged the best innovation team and was awarded RTGS$5 million.

On the second position were the Farm Innovation team that invented an Automatic Egg Incubator and they walked away with RTGS$4 500 000.

On third position was the team that preferred Smart Agriculture Solutions who shall pocket RTGS$4 million to improve their innovation.

On the fourth position was the team that proffered a Virtual Clinic that was awarded RTGS$ 3 500 000. On the fifth position was the team that invented Drone Virtual Tours and were awarded RTGS$3 million.

The Deputy Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Hon Dhingumuzi Phuti commended POTRAZ for coming up with the Hackathon Concept and said the move will take innovation to greater heights.

“I pledge the government’s continued support of the initiative since innovations will foster development in a number of ways. On one hand, innovation provides home-grown solutions that speak to specific problems affecting the country instead of relying on foreign innovations that do not fit the specific Zimbabwean context,” Honourable Phuti said.

He said home-grown solutions save the country a lot of money since there will be no need to purchase expensive ICT applications using foreign currency. Local innovations bring about revenue creation since home-grown solutions can be marketed and sold outside the country, thus earning the country foreign currency.

Hon Phuti commended the innovators for high-quality innovations with the potential of transforming Zimbabwe’s socio-economic fabric.

As a recommendation, Hon Phuti said while the prototypes were exceptional, there was a need to improve on the quality of presentation, and public speaking by the innovators.

He called for protracted follow-ups on all innovations, whether the ones that won or not.

Dr. Eldrette Shereni, the Head of Public Relations for NetOne, said the ICT sector is ever-evolving, hence the need for continuous innovation.

“The hackathon gives the youths an opportunity to apply their minds and develop game-changing ideas and solutions that can be adopted by telecoms players, and commercialised for the greater good of the nation,” Dr. Shereni said.

Mr. Farai Mutambirwa, a senior officer with TelOne’s innovation department commended the initiative by POTRAZ and said it encourages innovation and the development of home-grown solutions to address and solve various challenges bedevilling the country.

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