It’s 5am here in Nairobi, I am here in a room of a few dozen Kenyans, most of them are slumped over in front their laptops, heads over their folded arms trying catch just a little bit of shuteye. Others lie less graciously, curled up on the ground, under tables or across chairs. But a dedicated few soldiers on, eyes red, strained, but focused intently on the glowing laptop screens poised before them. Lingala music is still playing over the speakers, joyfully oblivious to the scene before its audience.
So what the hell is this, you may wonder? Some kind of bizarre and brutal African endurance test? No (well not completely true anyway), I am actually at the 6h Global Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Hackathon and its dedication to the cause is what is keeping these guys here. Over this weekend, over 60 software developers and subject matter experts are gathered at the Boma hotel to design and code solutions to the most pressing problems today across the African continent in the fight against corruption. Over these continuous 36 hours, some of the most talented young software developers in Kenya are working together in 12 teams, using mostly home-grown Kenyan innovations (such as uShahidi and FrontlineSMS), to build software to change the world. This event is now being held simultaneously across 16 countries and 32 cities with over 1000 developers worldwide all the way from Toronto to Dublin, Washington DC to Sydney.
But Nairobi’s event is unique, it is themed ‘Hacks Against Corruption’, and the only one on at this time dedicated entirely to tackling problems in corruption and transparency. Representatives from Transparency International have flown in from Uganda, Rwanda, Sierria Leone, Zimbabwe and as far away as Germany to come to see what these software developers have been able to build and provide solutions for. Adopting team names like FemTap and Pearl of Africa, some of the problems they are ‘hacking’ at include how we can make procurement more transparent in Sierre Leone, make Climate finance more accountable in Kenya, a snakes and ladders consequences game for kids and to explore creative and more accessible means of making complaints through SMS and mobile technologies across the region.
Now as this Hackathon (hacking marathon) is on its last stretch, our dedicated developers (also known as RHoK stars) are squeezing every inch of their will power and brain energy to finish this race. As the sun is coming up this morning, we’ll be here to cheer on these guys and girls on their homestretch in providing solutions to one of Africa’s greatest challenges – Corruption!
This article has been written by Justin Luu, Information and Communications Technology Officer at TI-Kenya.