There is one thing I do not appreciate – why we still have to import software solutions, when all a software is is code. We have stories of people who became billionaires just by writing code from the dome rooms. Mark Zuckerberg is such story; yet in a country like Kenya we see a government spend billions of shillings to buy a foreign software (IFMIS), yet it could have set aside shs 100 million, use it to hire some 10 to 20 local software engineers, give them a problem, and let the engineers come up with a solution.
Whereas the government continues to demonstrate lack of such simple thinking tactics that would save billions, Microsoft through its Microsoft’s Africa Development Centre (ADC) knows that the local software engineers should be challenged to come up with intriguing local solutions for our local problems, and that’s why they came up with the Microsoft Hackathon. Microsoft Hackathon is meant “to empower the students to develop impactful solutions that can help address some of Africa’s and the world challenges”.
“The program’s objective is to empower Microsoft Student Partners (MSPs) to develop leadership skills by teaching learners (student participants) technical skills in a fun competition while building awareness to all undergraduate students,” says Jack Ngare, the ADC Managing Director. “The original plan for GOL was to be conducted on campus at one of our partner universities. However, due to the pandemic we pivoted to a completely virtual experience which removed geographic limitations and has actually provided us with an opportunity to reach more students across the region.”
It is in is the same spirit that participants must take the opportunity to really think through some of the problems that are drugging Africans (and particularly Kenyans) back so as to concoct solutions that will have real impact to the growth of African nations.
Right now the world is moving very fast by coming up with Machine Learning algorithms that are tailored to take advantage of the big data. In Africa we still do not have adequate infrastructure and system to even produce this big data – big data that’s needed to help the ML emperor AI for smart solutions. This means that without the African tailored ML systems, Africa will remain at the tail of AI progress for a very long time; yet when majority of the AI systems that needs development simply needs smart coding – hardware coming a distant second.
The COVID-19 situation has also given the African innovator scenarios that needs taking advantage of. Online conferencing, online classrooms, working from home – these paradigm shifts caused by COVID-19 has brought to the front several hurdles that make it difficult for a typical African to perform his duties efficiently. Some of these hurdles need hardware oriented solutions like deployment of fast affordable Internet to everyone, providing end user access points like laptops, high res webcams, and other support hardware – but there are those solutions that needs tailor made software deployment.
In COVID-19 made us realise how ineffective Skype is, and how useful Zoom could be. Still, it was found that Zoom has its own shortcomings and that’s why Microsoft TEAMS became even more popular. Having that in mind, the innovators can figure out how to create applications that are going to address specific problems that were experienced by the African tech user.
If solving the African challenges is what keeps you awake, then the Microsoft Hackathon is what you need to subscribe to. All you need to know is that the MSPs will define the challenge and each team lead will dictate the rhythm of the weekly sprints. All participants will have access to development resources provided by Microsoft throughout the competition. Winner evaluation and selection will be based on the following:
- Weekly sprint submission (25%)
- Judging of final submission (50%)
- Twitter voting of final submission (25%)
Upon completion, each standing member of the winning team will be rewarded with:
- 1-year Azure credits
- 1-year LinkedIn Learning vouchers
- Digital certificate and digital badge for winning
- 1:1 mentorship from preferred professionals