Montreal Hosts Social Good Hackathon, Tackles Issues Like Water Scarcity, and Gender Bias

Montreal has always been a city of events: a city where many congregate together to celebrate and create together. It has always had a social edge as well, with a strong sense of social solidarity and justice.

The two combined together for a social good hackathon created by the Global Shapers Hub of Montreal, a group of young social entrepreneurs looking to engage the city into co-creating together. Supported by a wide range of sponsors, from Mozilla and Uber to Ottawa’s Shopify and even Coca Cola, the hackathon aimed to engage Montrealers to build with one another.

The goal of this hackathon was different from many; instead of just having a bunch of coders congregate together to create solutions for purely technical issues, the code(love) hackathon aimed to bring social entrepreneurs, designers, and coders together to help build solutions that could contribute to reducing youth unemployment, tackling the gender gap, and helping to raise awareness about water issues with the One Drop Foundation.

As Frédéric Harper of Mozilla put it, “”Technology is not an end in itself: your skills as a developer can make a huge difference in social good hackathons.”

It was one of the first events held in the new Notman House events space, a vast room that fit the interdisciplinary teams within. The noise of the teams working together clanged throughout the room, reflecting a measure of enthusiasm that permeated the room.

The amazing thing about hackathons is seeing what can be created in such a short length of time. It was even more amazing to watch people who had little to no coding experience pick up tips from veterans, and see before their eyes how rapidly something digital could be built.

The team associated with the One Drop Challenge built a video game that acted as an interactive primer on water use—with each step that you took around the city, your water level decreased. Routine actions that were required to raise your avatar’s happiness level required water. Once you ran out of water, you had to pump some manually by shaking the phone to and fro, simulating a bit of the hardship third world citizens had to go through to get the water they needed. It was an amazing, interactive look at an important issue, built in less than two days.

They were the ones who won the judge’s favor, but other teams also had impressive foundations for sustainable solutions,  including a quizzing application that helped detect gender bias by asking the user to state whether or not a man or a woman was behind a certain statement, and a platform that allowed for students to preview university courses before they took them.

A social good hackathon has the result of bringing people together to build solutions that can be used to address critical social issues. It is representative of the spirit of Montreal itself—open, social, on the cutting edge of technology. One can only hope there will be more in future.