Jamaicans top UN Hackathon in Switzerland
The United Nation’s World Summit on Information Technology this year saw more than 30 nationalities, 14 teams and a wide range of experienced individuals participating in the ‘Hack Against Hunger’ Hackathon, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
However, it was a four-member team which represented Jamaica, who was one of three teams, who were announced as winners after presenting a web- and mobile-based application on increasing food security.
The team included Juleen Gentles, computing student at the University of Technology (UTech); Odain Brown, computer science student at UTech; Chinelle Miller, medical science student at the University of the West Indies (UWI); and Joshua Thompson, computer science student at UTech.
Miller told The Gleaner that the competition presented an opportunity where they could use technology and other expertise to give recommendations on how enhance to agricultural practices among farmers, the government and other stakeholders.
“The web application was geared towards the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) or the relevant ministries and other government agencies. It’s really a map-based system, where they will be able to view the distribution of crops, diseases, pest infestation, incidence of praedial larceny among other issues that may arrive. The mobile part of it is for the farmers and the people out into the field,” she said
“There is usually a disparity in communication between the big players and the small man. We are trying to bridge the gap. When we did our research, we found out that the average age for farmers is 64 and so we took all of that into consideration when we were doing our preparations. We figured that even if they don’t have a smartphone, they will still be able to text,” she continued.
No shortage of challenges
Despite the joy of the Jamaican team’s success, Juleen Gentles says their time in Switzerland, where they participated in the ‘Hack Against Hunger’ Hackathon, was not short of challenges.
Gentles, a computing student at the University of the West Indies, noted that they were determined to do their best.
“Joshua (a member of the team) developed a terrible food allergy, so it was very difficult for all of us as a team. He still worked very hard even though he wasn’t his best. Unfortunately, he missed our pitching, so he actually found out after coming back from the doctor that we were successful. He also lost his laptop,” she said to a burst of laughter from the team.
“We had about three weeks to fine-tune our solution before we left for Geneva to compete. We did our best to make sure that it was worthy of competing on the global stage,” she said.
The team gave credit to their coach, Lianne McNaughton, the sponsors who took on the expenses of the trip, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority for giving advice, and other supporters.