Over the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of October 2020, 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. Embassy in South Africa, called Hackathons for South Africa: Digital Solutions for Real World Challenges. Finally, on Sunday the 11th of October, the winning solution was announced.

Walking away with the R25,000 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 startups, 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.”

Organiser of the hackathons, Lianne du Toit, who is the Founder of HackOn, says: “Gender-Based Violence is the shadow pandemic. The hackathon helped create a safe space for innovative solutions to come to the fore. It brought together diverse minds like doctors, psychologists, entrepreneurs and students to give a voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves. We cannot solve these issues in isolation and require systemic changes from education, culture and leadership. When we know better, we do better.”

Silicon Cape Director, Zimkhita Buwa, added: “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.”

For more information, go to https://www.buildcommunityhackathons.co.za