Tech hackathons are not anything new. But few are spurred by pandemics and a global effort to defeat a common enemy. Speaking during a chat about the recently concluded COVID-19 Innovation Challenge, Kola Aina expressed his wish that the challenge produces an African solution to the coronavirus problem.
“I wish we see an African solution from the COVID19 Innovation Challenge that is adopted all around the world to flatten the curve,” the Ventures Platform founder said after he was asked what would be an unexpected and delightful outcome of the challenge.
The chat was anchored by the Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE). OIIE is a subsidiary of the National Information Technology Development Agency.
The chat also touched on topics including the future of the tech sector in Nigeria, and the financial resources Ventures Platform got from partnerships that led to the hackathon.
The hackathon received over 500 solutions which were then narrowed down to 33, and finally to 7 instead of 5.
The entire process was co-ordinated online, with the lockdown giving the perfect opportunity to test the possibilities of working as a distributed team.
Everything related to the #COVID19InnovationChallenge is completely virtual. From the call for applications to pitching to mentorship support, volunteer participation & the demo day. This has been the perfect storm to test our resolve & ability to work as a a distributed team.Kola Aina, Founder/Partner Ventures Platform Hub
Moments like this make tech tools and resources more valuable, with the pitching sessions taking place on Zoom and mentoring taking place on virtual workspaces like Slack.
Challenges breed innovation..
One of the conclusions from the chat was that anxiety can be channeled into energy to create solutions. Choosing to take action instead of being anxious about the pandemic, Kola Aina said that teams pitched solutions in areas including heat mapping, contact tracing, and preventative bots.
“So far we have seen solutions with elements of heat mapping, contact tracing, preventative and information bots, self diagnosis solutions and also tools to assist with lifestyle adjustments, and much more. We have also seen some applications of AI and Machine learning”Kola Aina
One piece of advice that startups can derive from the chat is that collaboration is key. According to Aina, the initial plan for the hackathon was not as big as what it eventually turned out to be.
This was because of collaboration with key people who wanted the same results. As a result of the collaboration, there was capacity to pick an additional 2 startups instead of the original plan to select 5 and fund them with $1000 each. The funding got increased to $2000 as well, because of the collaboration.
Collaboration is everything. We couldn’t have gone as far and fast as we went without the collaboration and partnership of so many.”Kola Aina
Collaborators for the programme include the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Sterling Bank, MTN, Bluechip, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) among others.
The last words at the chat centered on startups continuing to build their team and products, and becoming more bullish. Asked what he’d like to change about the Nigerian tech ecosystem, Kola Aina said he would like to see startups become much more ambitious.
After the pandemic is over, there will be need for new products that will help people adjust and relate with the new realities of that time, as such, Kola Aina also shared that there would be hackathons to spur creation of new solution for that time, when it comes.
Until then, keep building.
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