We’ve participated in a few hackathons the last couple of years. We’ve even been a winner in one of them. This year when we decided to host our own hackathon, we chose to do things a little different.
Our hackathon ran continuously for 36 hours and to make things even more exciting, we divided the hackathon into 3 parts, 3 challenges, 3 winners and 3 prizes. In this article, I shall focus on the first part of the hackathon – the ‘biNu challenge’.
On day one, the hackers were focusing on developing biNu applications. We had 41 participants and none of these had ever developed biNu applications before. We started off by putting the developers through an intensive 90 minute bootcamp where we taught them (by example) how to build biNu applications, we helped them organize themselves in teams and then gave them 9 hours to develop working biNu applications.
Now, let’s fast forward to the part where the teams pitch their solutions to the judges. Personally, every one of the 10 applications developed blew me away. In fact, the judges had a tough time settling for one winner, so much so that they reached a stalemate and William Chui ended sponsoring a second handset for the second winner.
The winning apps were
- An app which allows you to submit to and read reports in an Ushahidi installation from within biNu and
- A ‘Neighborhood watch’ application which allow you to report crimes so that people are better able to avoid dangerous areas.
The winners will also get free hosting from uMAX – our internet sponsor for the event.
The other apps which came out of the biNu challenge where (and these are in no particular order BTW):
- Work Board – A biNu app which allows people/organisations to outsource skills. It’s going to kill the CV
- biNu Browser – An app which allows you to browse the web from within biNu. Think of it as ‘Opera Mini on steroids’.
- Recipes – A cooking assistant for cultural food. Those who watched David Bhers presentation where he said that ‘the internet is currently in America but we can bring it to Zimbabwe’ know the value of this app for Zimbabwe .
- Vota – A voter registration app for Zimbabweans. Don’t tell anyone but I’m kinda glad this app wasn’t launched sooner because then I’d have no excuse for not being a registered voter.
- Lotto – A mobile lotto from within biNu that lets you bet with small amounts. In his presentation, the presenter mentioned something about there being a gambler in every one of us. Very true (IMHO).
- biNu WhatsApp – An app that lets you send messages to WhatsApp users from within biNu. I know what you are going to ask and the answer is: Yes! it actually worked.
- Crime watch – A biNu app which lets you capture what crimes have happened in our area. And I mean capture as in ‘with the camera on your feature phone’.
- COZW – A local news aggregator. They are trying to make the RSS news reader that comes with biNu look amateur
- Bonki – A dating application which lets you pick which of you Facebook friends you want to date and will only send you both notifications when you select each other. I have lots of pretty girls on my Facebook friends list and I can’t wait for this one to go live.
Two developers, Tafadzwa Moyo and Shaun Benjamin finished working on their apps early and used the extra time to develop a mobile app which allows the participants to rate and submit feedback on what they thought of the hackathon. The gesture was much appreciated. We’ll be sharing information on what the participants said about the hackathon in the in the last part of this series.
Our event wasn’t all perfect however; We started about one hour late, we had one person who got lost and came because he thought it a was a security training event (talk about taking things literary), one of the 11 teams wasn’t able to produce a working applications and the worst part (well at least for me because I am a developer at heart) was not being able to compete because I was part of the team that was organising the event – nothing is worse than sitting on the sidelines and cheering while you watch others have all the fun and get things done.
At least we have room for improvement. Here are a few pictures:
biNu has 5 million Monthly Active Users, 1 billion page views per month and is growing at 10% per month.
This post was written by Tawanda Kembo. Tawanda is heading the development team at ZimStay. He does a lot of other things on the side and these include runningwww.ipaidabribe.org.zw. What he says is what he means!