Hackathon to drive innovation among youth

Garage48 in partnership with The Innovation Village, with support from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation, has organized a 2-round series of design hackathons happening this year and October 2022, next year.

The two design hackathons are a part of the EU: Africa They Journey 2021 and 2022 editions, an African-European online hackathon program with the goal to empower local talent in digital design and prototyping skills in preparation to enter the technology and startup sector.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt industries across the globe, it has created opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs to produce as well as serve customers in novel ways. However, these new ways require building a culture of innovation as well as empowering youthful people with the skills key in transforming the sectors that drive the Uganda’s soci0-economic transformation.

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The five-day program will provide talented youth with the right skills in digital design, user experience fundamentals, branding and prototyping to empower and prepare them with the right skillset to secure jobs in the technology sector.

Speaking during the media briefing at The Innovation Village, Kadri Aguraijuja, the Chief Operating Officer at Garage48 said hackathons are very crucial to the technology ecosystem because they enable programmers to develop solutions to the urgent socio-economic challenges affecting communities.

A report by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on culture and sustainable development in 2020 found that creative industries which include design, stimulate innovation and are critical to attaining the sustainable development agenda. They are the most dynamic sectors in the world economy and generate approximately $2.25 billion in revenue and 29.5 million jobs annually.

In Uganda, the skills gap is one of the major challenges faced by young people. With over 700,000 youth entering the job market annually and competing for only 9,000 jobs, it’s imperative that the skills that the youth get in this training improve their thought process as well as enable them to adapt to the changing context of work and entrepreneurship.

“Uganda is a very entrepreneurial country and the youth have huge potential to make a positive impact in shaping the future of the start-up ecosystem towards the desired direction for development and growth. They are knowledge-driven and essential change-makers in enriching the startup ecosystem with new ideas, contributing to new businesses, and creating jobs. Digital skills and design thinking are the key elements required to make an entry into the startup world.” Kadri added.

Samantha Niyonsaba Karama, Lead Future Lab at The Innovation Village said the hackathon speaks to the need for innovators to have knowledge and relevant platforms that enable them to ideate and develop solutions to societal problems.

“The role of The Innovation Village is to identify and bring together the local ecosystem comprising of entrepreneurs, start-ups, corporations, government, and individuals to collaborate with the aim of bringing about meaningful change and fostering innovation among players. We partnered with Garage48 to leverage their expertise and mentorship skills to educate and guide the participants during the hackathon,” she said.

The participating teams will be mentored and given the opportunity to develop solutions and pitch their ideas to design experts. These solutions will be judged based on consistency, originality, socio-economic value, design and commercialization opportunity according to Niyonsaba.

“Winners from the hackathon will join other participants in the EU: Africa the Journey hackathon program, an African-European online hackathon program aimed at bringing together digital enthusiasts from both continents. These will compete for a 100 000€ prize fund and a chance to undergo a 2-month long digital acceleration program,” Niyonsaba said.