Going avant-garde: Calling all innovators to come up with ideas to improve Karachi

'I am Karachi' dedicates panel discussion to slain rights activist Sabeen Mahmud


Our Correspondent May 07, 2015
Eleven hackers, web developers and citizens worked on their computers to come up with ideas to solve the city’s problems at the ‘Civic Hackathon’ organised at the T2F in 2013. PHOTO: PAKISTAN INNOVATION FOUNDATION

KARACHI: The 'I Am Karachi Innovation Challenge' was launched on Wednesday with the aim of fostering the culture of problem-solving and creating a society that opens avenues for innovators.

The launch was supposed to have taken place on April 27 but had been postponed to honour the deadly attack on T2F founder Sabeen Mahmud. A 'Bloggers' Meet-up' was held at Nest I/O on Wednesday to launch the innovation challenge being organised by the Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF) and 'I Am Karachi'.

On Wednesday, a panel discussion was dedicated to the memory of Mahmud and a minute of silence was observed. She was remembered as a staunch believer in technology and activism to revive peace in Karachi.

Former Gillette Pakistan CEO Saad Amanullah Khan briefed the audience about the objectives of 'I Am Karachi' and its recently launched mobile application. "People want to raise their voice against the wrongful activities in Karachi but they have no platform to do so," he said. "The application is one of the little endeavours by the consortium to provide an avenue to the public to register their concerns."

PIF founder and CEO Athar Osama then talked about the 'I Am Karachi Innovation Challenge'. He made an open call to the 'innovators' in Karachi to come up with their ideas to make the city a better place to live in. He urged students and professionals to register with their creative ideas before May 20 to change the future of Karachi. "The three-day Hackathon will be held at Habib University from June 12 till June 14," he said. "The top 10 teams will be announced in July and we will start mentoring them to take their ideas forward."

Osama then moderated the panel discussion, titled 'Sabeen Mahmud's legacy: Technology, Hackathons and Activism for Peaceful Karachi'. The panel included Sustainable Initiatives executive director Farhan Anwar, Network of Organisations Working for People with Disabilities director Omair Ahmad, Code for Pakistan founder and executive director Sheba Najmi, dentist and political activist Awab Alvi and Acumen Pakistan country director Naeem Zamindar.

Najmi joined the panel through Skype and gave the audience a brief overview of her association with the slain activist. "She was inspired by the idea of civic hackathons, therefore, she decided to turn my idea into reality," she said. "When I came back from the Code for America fellowship, Sabeen generously offered me a space at her office free of charge to develop my idea and turn it into reality."

According to Najmi, this was just a little glimpse of Mahmud's dedication towards the idea of using innovation to improve public service.

Other panel members also emphasised the significance of taking forward Mahmud's legacy to reclaim the country. Osama said that the innovation challenge will serve as a catalyst to transform Karachi into a better place.

He further said that the ideas can be related, but not limited, to sectors such as art, culture, education, environment, health, law, security, society and transportation. The judgement criteria will be based on the execution capability, innovativeness, motivation, relevance, resourcefulness and sustainability of the ideas. Winners will get three months of strategic guidance and technical support worth millions from the theme partners of PIF.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2015. 

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