Fight Against Gender-based Violence

Cape Town Unleashes its Creativity for the Fight Against Gender-based Violence

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Over the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of November 2019, 60 emerging software developers, IT professionals, trainers, civil society organisations, students, academics and professionals gathered at the Ernst & Young premises in Cape Town to see how they could use tech to tackle gender-based violence (GBV). This was the first of four hackathons taking place in Cape Town and Johannesburg over a one-year period as part of an initiative by the U.S. Embassy in South Africa called Hackathons for South Africa: Digital Solutions for Real World Challenges.

With only 36 hours in which to come up with innovative ideas on how tech could be used to help address the country’s GBV crisis, attendees quickly split into teams on Saturday morning. During the course of the day, to help take their concepts to the next level, they were paired with mentors such as JUMO.WORLD Director, Oliver Baillie; Social Impact Consultant, Farhana Parker, Associate Principal at South Suez Capital, Hannah Subayi Kamuanga and Founder of Nu Beginnings, Samantha-Leigh Harper, amongst others. “Gender-based violence is one of the worst issues plaguing our society.  Education and prevention, combined with the effective use of technology, are required to stop the destructive and vicious cycle of GBV,” said Subayi Kamuanga.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon they were ready to present their solutions, but only had a nerve-wracking eight minutes in which to do so. The ideas shared ranged from apps and wearable devices to panic buttons and educational games. Walking away with the R25,000 prize, along with access to Amazon Web Services’ AWS Activate programme, valued at over R15,000, was SmartWare.

Comprised of Dumisani Ncubeni from Philippi, Lihle Ndindwa from Nyanga East, Abulele Mhlungulwana from Ashton and Thomas Fihla from Nyanga East, SmartWare devised an app that helps to prevent incidents of GBV before they happen. The app offers a two-pronged approach to this by not only acting as an education platform for communities about GBV, but by also serving as a panic button for those in danger.  When triggered, either by pressing the volume button on one’s cellphone while it is in idle mode or by dialling ***#, the phone will send a broadcast SMS every minute notifying first responders such as community policing forums and alarm companies of the victim’s location which will be obtained from the  nearest cell tower. With the team revealing that police take over an hour to respond to a crime 42% of the time, the aim is to start getting help even before the crime has been committed.

When handed the cheque, Ncubeni said: “I always say I don’t believe that intelligence exists and if it does it is governed by one’s proximity to information. That was the basis of what we built – giving people access to information so that they can empower themselves.”

Ndindwa added: “We will work with anyone who is willing to work with us so we can take this forward.”

Scooping second place and the R15,000 prize was NerdBirds – an all-female group of computer scientists and engineers. They conceptualised a game to help educate young minds aged between nine and eleven about GBV and the perceptions around it. The game is designed to promote discussion and teach children about serious topics such as boundary violations and stereotypes, but with an element of fun.

The next hackathon will be taking place at the Rosa Parks American Library in Soweto, Johannesburg in early 2020.

Organiser of the hackathons, Lianne du Toit, who is the Founder of HackOn, shared: “We are solving wicked problems that can’t be solved by one person or organisation alone. Hopefully, through these honest and collaborative conversations, communities and industries that might not have had the opportunity to cross paths can now catalyse shared visions for solving complex problems.”

For more information, go to https://www.buildcommunityhackathons.co.za.

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