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Online global hackathon aims to tackle local issues

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, August 31, 2020  /  03:16 pm
Online global hackathon aims to tackle local issues

Online hackathon Garuda Hacks is the first Indonesian-based hackathon affiliated with Major League Hacking, a company that operates a league for student hackathons. (Shutterstock/File)

Indonesia still needs to fight illiteracy among citizens.

Statistics Indonesia (BPS) revealed in 2019 the country's illiteracy rate of 4.10 percent among people aged 15 and above , 0.76 percent among 15 to 45 year old and 9.92 percent for people over 45.

Though the percentages were lower compared to 2018, literacy is considered to play a crucial role in individuals’ success.

cross-platform mobile app baca aims to solve the issue by using an interactive learning system. The app also features story-based and quiz-based learning sessions for a wide range of users, from kindergarten to working age. 

The app baca initially was a project of four university students, namely Austen Jeremy Sugiarto from National University of Singapore; Erly Amethya and Edward Tanoto from University of Nottingham Ningbo China; and Ferdy Anggara from Hong Kong University of Science of Technology.

In an email to The Jakarta Post, Ferdy explained the challenges encountered during the setup process. “It’s quite a challenge when we're faced with bugs that we didn't expect during the planning stage. It took us quite some time to figure out the bugs, but in the end we managed to finish the project and learn a lot from those bugs,” Ferdy said.

In a forthcoming plan, Edward hoped to collaborate with professionals in the literacy field to develop baca. They also wanted to scale its users by partnering with schools and holding volunteering programs in rural areas to reach more people.

“In the end, our plan for the future is to enable every Indonesian to read better, to empower them with knowledge for a better Indonesia,” Edward said.

The app is among the winners of online global hackathon Garuda Hacks that took place from Aug. 14 to 21. Hackathon, a portmanteau of hacking and marathon, is an event where people collaborate to create prototypes to find solutions to certain issues.

Garuda Hacks was said to be the first Indonesian-based hackathon  affiliated with Major League Hacking (MLH), a company that operates a league for student hackathons

“The event was inspired by a lack of resources and competitive edge for technology and computer science communities in Indonesia,” wrote Sherise Netanya, Garuda Hacks’ sponsorship and communications director, in an email to the Post. ”Our team was moved to bring the hackathon culture we’ve seen in the United States’ Silicon Valley.”

Read also: Online hacking marathon aims to find COVID-19 solutions

Around 2,300 participants participated in the event, mostly from Indonesia, India, the US and Canada. It also received 224 project submissions with a focus on three sectors in Indonesia, namely health, education and small business.

“Our primary thesis for Garuda Hacks 2020 is the exploration of the new normal of society. Those three sectors are what we believe to be going through a period of massive transformation to adjust to the new status quo,” said Sherise. “As a result, we chose to highlight these topics to spark discussion on how technology can help create a tangible impact toward these fields.”

The event required its participants to create projects in 36 hours. They were assessed based on application or impact, functionality or quality, creativity and technical complexity.

Garuda Hacks’ sponsorship director, Rafael Brian Sumali, said that along with programming, the required skills in the event included teamwork, time management and efficient planning, as well as agility.

“We encourage people of any background, either technical or non-technical, to team up and work on building a technology project just like a real startup,” Brian said. “Beyond that, we partner up with software platforms, one of them is, that enables people to rapidly build their software prototypes without the need for prior programming experience.”

Alongside baca, other winners included Psy Pal, which aimed to provide solutions in the mental healthcare system as it enables users to record their daily data; and Tip Panda in the small business sector with its enhanced tipping system for restaurants.

He said a number of the projects were being considered by accelerator programs and investors from the Silicon Valley for further development, while members of the winning teams were also being considered by the event’s hiring partners, such as, Wahyoo, OVO, Dana and Kotakode, for potential recruitment.

“We encourage all of our participants to continue building their projects and we sincerely hope to see some of the projects get launched to the mass market,” Brian said.

The hackathon marked the first event held by global non-profit organization Garuda Hacks, which was founded this year by a group of Indonesian university students in the San Francisco Bay Area, US. 

Scott Sunarto, managing director of Garuda Hacks, said it planned to make Garuda Hacks an annual event. “In the next generation of Garuda Hacks, the issues we’ll be highlighting will continue to be driven by the current zeitgeist and urgency that is prevalent in society,” Scott said. (wng)