In a bid to help fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), more than 400 participants, members of 108 teams, gathered for the StartUp Namibia hackathon initiative. The hackathon took place entirely online as Namibia is under a nationwide lockdown as it also tries to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The hackathon took place from 17 to 19 April 2020 entirely online and encouraged participating teams to accelerate the development of solutions to support Namibia's health system and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Teams consisting of three to six members can enter the hackathon, which will be coordinated via digital platforms. Due to the nationwide lockdown and the measures in place, the event will be exclusively online and there will be no physical gatherings – adding a level of difficulty not previously experienced in hackathons, but which is now the new normal. The winners walk away with N$50 000 in cash, while second and third places get N$25 000 and N$15 000 respectively. Prizes will be given both in the Health and Business Continuity categories. The prize money is co-sponsored by Green Enterprise Solutions," read a statement by the organizers ahead of the hackathon.

Solutions for fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Namibia

The teams worked on solutions to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Namibia. In total, they submitted 52 prototypes for assessment to be judged.

The submitted prototypes and solutions fell under two categories:

â€ĸ Health: New innovative ideas that address and scale a range of health initiatives, including preventative/ hygiene behaviours, supporting frontline health workers, scaling telemedicine, contact tracing/ containment strategies, treatment and diagnosis development.

â€ĸ Business continuity: The teams will create solutions to the problems that businesses are facing to stay afloat, collaborate effectively and move parts of their business online. This includes sectors that are specially affected like tourism, construction, informal vendors, etc.

According to the organizers of the online hackathon in Namibia, the participating teams included the digital technology sector, developer communities, university students, health professionals and businesses in Namibia.

Technologists helping to fight COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out, from my observation, two types of technologists. Those that have worked and co-operated with the health professionals and other professionals at the frontlines of fighting COVID-19; and those that continue to work in isolation and believing that whatever widget they build will be adopted and somehow help fight COVID-19.

The latter is more concerned about the technology than solving the problem at hand, they are like the old saying - "to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail." While the former, like the StartUp Namibia hackathon, are concerned in first understanding the problem and then applying the correct solutions to solving it.

The best prototypes and solutions were chosen, according to the judges, based on their impact and being able to launch within a short time frame. The judges also said they considered the concepts' ease of use.

Winners

Health: The winner in the health category is the 'Covid-19 Self-Reporting Online Consulting-Portal', by the Onandete team, which is a platform to speed up efforts to detect possible Covid-19 cases. The second prize in the health category was won by 'AwehDoctors' from Team Mad Engineers. They offered a way for doctors to treat patients telephonically for minor ailments. The third prize was won by Ergo Analytics, which offered a solution to improve contact tracing through technology. Reducing the risk of new waves of COVID-19 infections beyond the lockdown period. The solution aims to reduce the number of patients at public hospitals and clinics and therefore the risk of infection.

Business: The grand winner in the business continuity category was Namgo (Gerhard Kotze). Namgo is a solution for improving goods delivery in times of Covid-19. The second prize went to Life Changers, who developed a messenger mobile application called 'Run Me an Errand'. The concept uses an SMS line to connect businesses with buyers. The third prize went to HoverMarket, an e-commerce mall, connecting informal vendors and taxi drivers to customers.

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