Latest News Editor's Choice

News / National

Protraz Hackathon: $175m up for grabs

by Staff reporter
13 Jun 2022 at 06:43hrs | Views
THE Post and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has launched this year's Hackathon, with $175 million up for grabs for outstanding innovations.

To participate in the Hackathon one can download application forms from the Potraz website and shortlisted applicants will be notified no later than June 24.

Launched in 2020, this year's Hackathon is open to all Zimbabweans.

Last year, there were 10 winners from across Zimbabwe who were awarded prizes from the $32 million that was up for grabs.

The word Hackathon comes from blending the words Marathon and Hack, where marathon refers to performing a long or difficult activity in a short period and Hack refers to exploratory computer programming.

During a Hackathon, participants spend a short period of time, usually between 24-48 hours which can go up to a week, building, creating and delivering an ICT solution to a specified problem.

Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete said Hackathons were a great opportunity for young innovators to come up with solutions for today's problems.

He said this year, Potraz plans to have another Hackathon besides the one they have advertised.

"We are planning on doing two Hackathons this year, but that's subject to resources.

This is because during a Hackathon it's a process, there needs to be time to apply, time for assessing the applicants and time to prepare for the actual Hackathon and have judges in place and so forth.

There needs to be manpower and all that needs a budget and that is why we did two last year," said Dr Machengete.

Asked if any of the previous Hackathon winners have launched their products, Dr Machengete said most of the innovations are still on the prototype stage.

"We haven't commercialised any though they have gone quite far in producing their prototypes.

We are waiting for reports from the people who are helping them so that they are assisted in commercialising their prototypes.

However, there is a need to commercialise them so that they can see how the market is receiving their product.

It's a process, because the product isn't developed today and then tomorrow it goes live on the market," said Dr Machengete.

He said once a wrong product is put on the market, the product flight is dead hence the need to perfect it.

"They need to do trials and that's what the experts from universities are helping them to do before they launch the products," said Dr Machengete.

He said last year's two Hackathon challenges were a success as the programmers came up with solutions for the disruptions that were caused by Covid-19.

"The first 2021 Hackathon competition was aimed at proffering sustainable solutions that made use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to mitigate the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on different human endeavours in the health, education, agriculture, industry and commercial sectors.

Applications aimed at minimising the spread, co-ordinate response mechanisms and promote public awareness of the Covid-19 pandemic were also considered for support under the first 2021 Hackathon," said Dr Machengete.

He said the second Hackathon focused on submitting solutions aimed at solving the problem of low average agricultural yields in the country.

"In a 2019 study by the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) and the Financial Gazette, findings revealed that the country's average maize production was 0,64 tonnes per hectare while South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Kenya produced an average 5,3 tonnes per hectare, 2,8 t/ha, 1,67t/ha and 1,66t/ha respectively.

While the survey focused mainly on maize, it equally applies to other crops as well," said Dr Machengete.

He said the challenge in Zimbabwe is that smallholder farmers, the 1,8 million households that constitute the majority of farmers in the country, produce an average of 0,54t/ha while commercial farmers produce 3,82t/ha hence the low average yield and low production.

"These issues require urgent and sustainable interventions that can only be brought about by the introduction of technologies that address the root cause of these problems hence the second Hackathon was aimed specifically at addressing the problem of low average agricultural yields," said Dr Machengete.

He said the 2021 winners have just completed the six months mentorship and incubation programme and are now working on their projects.

Source - The Chronicle