Tech incubator Silicon Cape and the US Embassy in South Africa are coming together once more, to run a weekend-long hackathon aimed at finding digital solutions to fight the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

While the hackathon, which forms part of the Embassy’s year-long initiative called “Hackathons for South Africa: Digital Solutions for Real World Challenges”, has taken place offline in the past, the upcoming event will be held virtually.

The hackathon is happening when South Africa is witnessing a spike in GBV-related offences and femicide, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and nation-wide lockdown.

Cele previously indicated that in the first five days of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the police force’s GBV hotline received 2 300 calls – nearly three times the rate prior to lockdown.

In a statement, Silicon Cape says the virtual hackathon will take place over the weekend of 3 and 4 October, with a bootcamp to be hosted between Monday, 5 and Friday, 9 October.

Emerging software developers, IT professionals, trainers, civil society organisations, students, academics and professionals with expertise relevant to the theme are all invited to attend the hackathon.

They will be asked to explore what can be done to make communities safer, investigate how best to respond to threats, and produce tech ideas that could save lives.

All teams taking part in the hackathon will pitch their ideas to the audience and judges. Sunday, 11 October will see them deliver their final presentations, after which the winning solution will be selected and a prize-giving ceremony will be held.

The winning team will walk away with R25 000, the runner-up will receive R15 000 and there will be R5 000 in spot prizes up for grabs.

Silicon Cape chairperson Dr Sumarie Roodt says: “Tech has the power to change lives, so why shouldn’t it be applied to solving one of the biggest challenges plaguing South Africa.”

For the bootcamp, anyone is allowed to join, to learn more about topics such as design thinking, rapid prototyping and taking one’s app to market.

It will be held daily on the Embassy’s Facebook page, comprising lunchtime talks and featuring speakers such as Alex Nana-Sinkam, portfolio lead for global equity at IDEO; Nonhlanhla Mokwena, executive director of People Opposing Women Abuse; and Lathika Pai, country head at Microsoft for start-ups.

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