Solving BIG problems using little technology in Ghana
In January, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in partnership with UNICEF Ghana launched the MEST-UNICEF Hackathon, a three-day product development competition to find new technologies to serve the hard-to-reach in Ghana. Participants tackled issues ranging from water supply tracking, to access to information, and sanitation.
"Partnering with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology gives UNICEF the opportunity to encourage innovations by Ghanaians, for Ghanaians. This partnership will bring different sets of skills, viewpoints and influence to the table. Most of the problem statements presented by UNICEF are around how we, working with our partners, improve our ability to target resources and monitor and manage results. We believe that this hackathon will come up with innovative concepts that can be further refined to improve the lives of children in Ghana.”
Over three days (from 15th -17th January 2014), participants worked in teams to develop practical web or mobile applications that address a set of problem statements presented by UNICEF Ghana. On 17th January, the teams pitched their solutions to a panel of judges from UNICEF Ghana and MTN Ghana. The top three teams received GHC 5,000, GHC 2,500 and GHC 1,000 respectively.
“MEST is dedicated to supporting young and bright Africans to start their own software companies to create wealth and jobs in Africa. Our goal is that by setting this pace we can inspire generations that follow to achieve greatness in the continent.” Ekua Odoom, Managing Director - MEST said.
“We know talent is equally distributed but wealth is not and by creating opportunities like this we are showing the world how inspirational, talented and promising the youth in Africa are. And for this reason we are excited to partner with key development players such as UNICEF Ghana, to pursue this common vision of touching the continent in a phenomenal way- by helping find innovative technologies to serve the hard-to-reach in Ghana through this hackathon” Ms. Odoom said.
Over 100 of Ghana’s brightest tech minds joined the competition at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra. Participants were joined by guests from the technology and business communities, as well as members of the general public.
“New ideas and technologies are needed to serve the hardest to reach communities in Ghana. UNICEF aims to co-develop innovations that are driven by and suited to the needs of the most vulnerable,” UNICEF Ghana Country Representative Susan Namondo Ngongi said.
“Partnering with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology gives UNICEF the opportunity to encourage innovations by Ghanaians, for Ghanaians. This partnership will bring different sets of skills, viewpoints and influence to the table. Most of the problem statements presented by UNICEF are around how we, working with our partners, improve our ability to target resources and monitor and manage results. We believe that this hackathon will come up with innovative concepts that can be further refined to improve the lives of children in Ghana.” Ms Ngongi said.
Going forward, the winning teams will meet with the relevant UNICEF sections (WASH, Children Protection and Education) to discuss their winning entries in more detail, potential application and how best to take the ideas forward.
UNICEF aims to continue this partnership with the next MEST-UNICEF Hackathon planned for January 2015.
The winning entries
Team SIS (Sanity in Sanitation)
Problem: Monitoring sanitation in our communities
Solution: A grading system to help Environmental Health Assistants collect data using questionnaires and a data analysis platform that displays responses from the various communities / districts via mapping technologies. This is also aided by community based sanitation campaigns.
Team: Birth Watch
Problem statement: Birth registration in rural Ghana has not been efficiently decentralised
Solution: BirthWatch is a textit-powered community enhancement application, which facilitates birth registration among rural dwellers via the Short Messaging System. With this, registered health volunteers can collect details about newborns, and send them over a configured SMS template using a feature phone or higher. To an administrative dashboard at the district level, the information will be relayed, from which birth certificates can be conveniently generated and dispatched.
Problem Statement: Tracking Child friendly schools in Ghana
Solution: A web interface for the monitoring officers and at the same time leveraging on the power of SMS. From the dashboard the monitors can send questions in the form of SMS to representatives of the various stakeholders in schools (School Prefect representing the students, the school management chairman representing the community and any teacher representing the teachers) to respond to these questions. These responses are analysed in real time for each school. Schools can be compared in terms of performance in the indices of monitoring which include: teaching, sanitation,child rights etc.