HackLab 2017 – Advancing Technology in Ghana

Hackathons in Ghana
Hacklab 2017 happening in KNUST

Over one hundred participants from a little over twelve universities all around the country.
Just one Winner.

What a vast change from seventy-four participants from four universities that was had during the first edition of HackLab that was organised last year. The energy from the participants fills the room during the opening ceremony as the organisers made their various speeches. All you had to do was be in the room to feel their need to be done with the preliminaries and begin the hackathon. Finally, a buzz filled the room as the rules were explained. Ideas were brainstormed. Clarifications were made. The hack began.

Leaving them on the first day at midnight, I was personally exhausted but the participants were just getting started. The energy in the room hadn’t diminished by the time we got back the next morning. They were still going strong.
A team from K.N.U.S.T had by this time, seemed to organise themselves and identified a problem we all faced and how they could fix it. They had called friends and family and come up with a way to make their lives simpler. A problem one could deem insignificant but had great ramifications for anyone who had encountered it.

What problem could that possibly be? One word. Saving.

It’s so hard to save sometimes, is it not? You put money aside, determined to use it for one particular purpose in the future but life happens and all your planning comes to nought. Well, the team WeCode from the Kumasi University of Science and Technology had come up with a way to make use of the Slydepay API to help make saving easier for everyone.
An application that regulates how much and how often you can take money out of your account. A near perfect solution to help keep you in check and attain all your saving goals. Gideon, a member of WeCode explained how they spent most of the first night calling family and friends to find out what the most difficult part of saving was and realised it was well….saving. The temptation to spend the money one has saved because of easy access is a real struggle. This innovative and quite practical idea is what earned them the win they so rightly deserved.
Just because they won doesn’t mean they were the only team with breathtaking ideas. The two-man team Spirex developed the idea of a device that detects motion in a room and switches off the light when there is none. They were awarded the title of Best Idea. The group that delivered the best pitch was Room 63, eloquently presenting the idea of an Uber-like delivery system which utilises students to deliver food and packages. The first runner-ups, Unique Gigs, presented an investment service that functioned over USSD.
Unfortunately, not everyone could walk away with one accolade or another even though they all presented unique and thoughtful ideas.  All the participants rallied behind the respective winners. The support for one of their own was overwhelming. It seemed winning was only a by-product of participating in the hackathon. Everyone was happy to partake in the process and learn from the staff application of skills they didn’t know before. There was always next year to try their hands at winning the ultimate prize but for now, they knew something they did not know before.

A casual defeat was all part of the learning process.

In the immortal words of Maya Angelou “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Salma Braimah

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