Tech Panel Tackles Poverty with Hackathon

While innovations in tech can aid in small day-to-day conveniences and social media tools, it can also help change the world.

At the Poverty Fighting Tech Panel, hosted by and organized by Developers Without Borders on Nov. 24, the importance of tech taking on social responsibilities was discussed.

The event featured four panelists: Tariq Fancy, founder of the non-profit organization Rumie, which seeks to bring free digital education to underprivileged children; Levi Goertz, COO of VOTO Mobile, which provides software to NGOs to enable two-way mobile phone communication anywhere in the world; Deveney Bazinet, who is the International Manager for Programming at Free the Children; and Tiago Borges Coelho, co-founder of UX, a company from Mozambique that gives technical solutions for social development in emerging markets.

The event came after Devs Without Borders’ 28-hour Poverty Hackathon, which took place simultaneously in both Toronto and Nairobi from Nov. 20-22. The event saw 150 Canadian participants, and 50 Kenyan participants. The goal was to create solutions for problems faced in developing countries, in this case rural Kenya, where the winning solution will be implemented by Free the Children. At the Poverty Fighting Tech Panel, demos from the three finalists were displayed.

1. Agricate: This application collects key data points, such as location, crop and family size, from farmers. Based on this data, Agricate gives carefully tailored advice to the farmer on how to improve their yield, all through SMS.

2. Immunisave: The goal of Immunisave is to raise immunization rates in rural Kenya. People can text to find clinics their local area and register their children for immunization. Reminders and information about outbreaks, local clinics are sent through SMS.

3. TrashBot: A mobile app, created by three highschool students, that allows kids to control their own robots made out of recycled materials, which would be connected to a cellphone.  The goal is to create a low cost method to educate kids in STEM fields by providing a cheap affordable robotics platform to underprivileged kids.

The winner of the Hackathon was Agricate. A “People’s Choice Award” was also held at the panel, where everyone who attended voted for their favourite demo. That award went to Immunisave.