Recently, emerging software developers, IT professionals, trainers, civil society organisations, students, academics, professionals and even high school learners from around Johannesburg gathered virtually to see how they could use tech to tackle gender-based violence (GBV). This was the second of four hackathons which form part of an initiative by Silicon Cape and the U.S. Mission to South Africa, called Hackathons for South Africa: Digital Solutions for Real World Challenges. Finally, after much anticipation, the winning solution was announced.
Walking away with the R25,000 ($1,541 USD) grand prize was Always Safe Networks for their security jewellery solution. Outlining their idea, team leader, Dr Sibo Tito, shared: “Pulling out an obvious security device during an attack can result in more harm than good. What’s more, victims tend not to report incidents due to an inability to provide proof. With an inconspicuous, unobtrusively activated panic button that not only summons help to the victim’s GPS location but also records every incident, women will feel much more secure and it will drive reporting, protection orders and prosecution through physical proof.”
In addition to the cash prize, which the team says will be put towards bringing their solution to life, Always Safe Networks have won a Silicon Cape membership valued at R1,500. With Silicon Cape being an ecosystem enabler for tech-enabled start-ups, the team will be connected with accelerators, mentors and other relevant community members such as developers, angel investors and venture capitalists to help them take their solution to market. Amazon Web Services will also give Always Safe Networks access to the low cost, easy-to-use infrastructure needed to scale and grow via the AWS Activate programme which includes benefits like $10,000 worth of AWS Promotional Credits, valid for two years; AWS Business Support valued at $5,000; and a solution architect technical white-boarding session.
Scooping second place and the R15,000 prize was Oaks for their mobile app aimed at empowering GBV victims. Team leader, Rose Dube, explained that one in three women have experienced some form of gender-based violence, but less than 40% of these women seek help of any sort. “Reasons for this include social stigma, financial dependence on the perpetrator and lack of access to resources. Our solution is a chat-based mobile application that provides support, information, tools and access to a community in an environment free of prejudice and judgement.”
Silicon Cape Director, Zimkhita Buwa, says: “We believe that tech can help change the world we live in and are delighted to have witnessed so many innovative ideas to curb the scourge of GBV. We hope that all the teams continue to hone their solutions for the good of all women and children in our country.”
Johannesburg Consul General, Heather Merritt, adds: “We are so pleased that the U.S. Mission to South Africa is able to promote creative thinking on tech solutions to combat the scourge of gender-based violence. Supporting initiatives aimed at addressing human rights and health issues is one of the United States’ priorities in South Africa and we are glad that we can do this through our partnership with Silicon Cape.”