PESHAWAR: Nearly 200 people have registered for the city’s first ever Civic Hackathon to be held from January 31 to February 2, while various problems that need to be worked on have been submitted on the organisers’ website.
Out of these 200 applicants, 60 will be invited to participate in the hackathon. At the end of the event, three winning teams will be selected, with each team comprising four to five people, who will develop prototypes of their innovative projects.
The three-day hackathon is organised by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board, Code for Pakistan, World Bank and Peshawar 2.0 and will be held at the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar.
This is the first such step taken by the provincial government aimed at involving citizens in coming up with effective solutions to common civic problems by using technology. If implemented properly, the tech developed at the event will bring practical solutions to the city.
The hackathon aims to attract civic-minded programmers, designers, data analysts, community organisers, creative thinkers, and innovators. These people will then form teams, develop ideas and design prototypes to address civic problems faced by the public.
The solutions can range from simple SMS-based notification systems to more complex applications for smart phones, and can cover topics like disaster relief, public health monitoring, crime reporting, neighbourhood amenities, public transportation, or traffic notifications.
Talking to The Express Tribune on Monday, the founder of Code for Pakistan, Sheba Najmi said, “During the hackathon, people from various walks of life will bring their innovative ideas to the table and create web, mobile, and SMS-based applications.”
She added those who create projects that could help with better governance will be awarded a six-month fellowship to learn and install their project in the relevant government department.
Najmi further said both local and foreign trainers would be brought in to assist and guide the selected fellows, while the provincial government would bear the expenses of the fellows and also provide a stipend.
“The main purpose of arranging these initiatives is to engage citizens in finding solutions to their problems. As compared to other provinces, the K-P government has shown the most interest,” claimed Najmi.
Faisal Khan of Peshawar 2.0 said, “Civic hacking, i.e. the government providing a platform to enable creative and skilled citizens to solve local problems, is an integral component of technology roadmaps for city governments around the world.”
He added similar efforts were needed to build knowledge and technology driven ‘smart cities’ in Pakistan. Muhammad Uzair of Peshawar 2.0 remarked the goal of the event is to highlight talent among the people.
The various civic problems submitted to the hackathon organisers’ website include tech-based solutions to recording punctuality and attendance of government school teachers and students, creating an online blood donor directory, providing information on the nearest health facility, giving access to contraceptives and family
planning information, among others.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2014.