Protraz Hackathon: $175 million to be won

The Posts and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has kicked off this year’s Hackathon, with $175 million up for grabs for outstanding innovations.

To participate in the Hackathon, you can download the application forms from the Potraz website and shortlisted applicants will be notified no later than June 24.

Launching in 2020, this year’s Hackathon is open to all Zimbabweans.

Last year, 10 winners from across Zimbabwe received prizes from the $32 million that were up for grabs.

The word Hackathon comes from the mixture of the words Marathon and Hack, where marathon refers to the completion of a long or difficult activity in a short period of time and Hack refers to exploratory computer programming.

During a Hackathon, participants spend a short period of time, usually between 24 and 48 hours, which can be up to a week, building, creating and delivering an ICT solution to a specific problem.

Potraz CEO Dr. Gift Machengete said the hackathons are a great opportunity for young innovators to find solutions to today’s problems.

He said that this year Potraz plans to hold another hackathon in addition to the one they announced.

“We plan to do two Hackathons this year, but it depends on resources.

Indeed, during a hackathon, it is a process, it takes time to apply, time to evaluate the applicants and time to prepare for the actual hackathon and have judges in place, etc.

It takes manpower and all of that takes a budget and that’s why we did two last year,” said Dr Machengete.

When asked if any of the previous Hackathon winners had launched their products, Dr Machengete said most of the innovations were still at the prototype stage.

“We haven’t released any of these, although they’ve gone quite far in producing their prototypes.

We are waiting for feedback from the people who help them to support them in the marketing of their prototypes.

However, it is necessary to market to them so that they can see how the market receives their product.

It’s a process, because the product is not developed today and tomorrow it will be on the market,” said Dr Machengete.

He said that once a bad product hits the market, the theft of the product is dead, hence the need to perfect it.

“They have to do trials and that’s what university experts help them do before they launch the products,” Dr Machengete said.

He said both challenges at last year’s Hackathon had been a success, with programmers coming up with solutions to the disruptions caused by Covid-19.

“The first Hackathon 2021 competition aimed to propose sustainable solutions using information and communication technologies (ICT) to mitigate the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on different human activities in the sectors of health, education, agriculture, industry and commerce.

Applications aimed at minimizing the spread, coordinating response mechanisms and raising awareness of the Covid-19 pandemic have also been considered for support under the first 2021 hackathon,” said Dr Machengete.

He said the second hackathon focused on submitting solutions to address the problem of low average agricultural yields in the country.

“In a 2019 study by the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) and the Financial Gazette, the results revealed that the country’s average maize production was 0.64 tonnes per hectare, while South Africa, the Zambia, Malawi and Kenya produced an average of 5.3 tons per hectare. hectare, 2.8 t/ha, 1.67t/ha and 1.66t/ha respectively.

Although the survey mainly focused on maize, it is also applicable to other crops,” said Dr Machengete.

He said the challenge in Zimbabwe is that smallholder farmers, the 1.8 million households that make up the majority of farmers in the country, produce an average of 0.54 t/ha while commercial farmers produce 3.82 t. /ha, hence the low average yield. and low production.

“These problems require urgent and sustained interventions which can only be brought about by the introduction of technologies that address the root cause of these problems. Therefore, the second Hackathon was specifically aimed at addressing the problem of low average agricultural yields “, said Dr. Machengete.

He said the 2021 winners had just completed the six-month mentorship and incubation program and were now working on their projects.

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