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Hackers target the Sustainable Development Goals

In October and November 2018, the Belgian development agency Enabel organizes ‘Hack the Goals’, a series of six hackathons in five partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation. Creative teams in Senegal, Niger, Palestine, Morocco, and Uganda will look for new and innovative solutions for development challenges. Alexander De Croo, Minister of Development Cooperation and for the Digital Agenda, is thrilled: The future is digital, also in terms of development. The digital revolution offers so many new opportunities to solve development challenges in a different and better way.

During the hackathons, the participating teams will look for creative digital solutions for local issues, the Belgian Development Cooperation encounters in the different countries. In Senegal, for example, they want to facilitate the process for parents to register their newborns in the town hall. In Palestine, the municipal authorities have a hard time finding out the daily concerns of their inhabitants. And in Niger, there will be a brainstorming session about the different possibilities to improve health care quality through citizen participation.

The hackathons are unique because they gather participants with very different backgrounds: health experts, IT professionals, youngsters, education experts, civil servants, civil society or businesmen, This creates a very diverse group, and that is exactly what ‘co-creation’ is all about. The solutions that come out of the discussions are ultimately meant to help reach the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN). A local jury in each country selects the best or most promising idea. Each national winner will subsequently participate in the international final in Belgium on November 16th.

On the day of the final, the representatives of the different winning hackathon teams will meet at ‘Les Tanneurs’ (Huidevetterstraat, Brussels) for the closing ceremony. During the ceremony, the Minister of Development Cooperation and Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo will award the first prize (Euros 5,000) to the winning team. The prize is meant as an encouragement for the proposed idea to be actually put into practice.

The other participating solutions won’t be thrown away of course. The hackathons are a way of raising awareness. They show our colleagues from the different projects how they can work together with the local people to come up with digital innovations in a creative environment. In the past, hackathons have already proven that innovative solutions do not always have to be expensive, says Bart Cornille, Enabel’s digital expert.

The award ceremony on November 16th is preceded by keynote speeches about the importance and the potential of digitalization for development. Besides Alexander De Croo, Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip will speak about the European strategy to integrate digitalization in the development policy.

Afterwards, there will be a debate on the future of digitalization for development. Some participants in this debate are: Isaya Yunge, founder of SomaApps in Tanzania and one of the 30 most promising African ‘change-makers’ according to Forbes, Afke Schaart, Vice-President and Head of Europe of GMSA, and Ibrahim Ouassari, co-founder of MolenGeek.

Source: Embassy of Belgium in Pakistan

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