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Hackathon to help kids

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Technology and early childhood development might not always be considered comfortable bedfellows, but recently people working across the ECD spectrum teamed up with techies to brainstorm technology solutions for the sector.

The event was co-hosted by the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a specialised unit at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) and ECD social innovation fund Innovation Edge.

Hackathons – also known as hack days or hack fests – are events where computer programmers collaborate intensively with a diverse group of people on specific software projects for a limited amount of time. They are fast emerging around the world as a powerful mechanism to surface co-created, technology-enabled innovation to tackle specific business and social challenges.

The concept has been gaining ground in South Africa too, with champions like the Bertha Centre, GovHack and Silicon Cape leading the way. On the weekend, these three players teamed up with Innovation Edge, which funded the day, and other partners including the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University, Ogilvy, RLabs, Codex and MTN, to focus the power of the hack on the critical area of ECD.

According to the Bertha Centre’s Camilla Swart, who conceptualised the event with Mark Tomlinson from the University of Stellenbosch, research shows that the first few years of a child’s life is crucial to laying a solid foundation for lifelong health and intellectual development. “Poor access to good nutrition, a lack of responsive care and a dearth of early stimulation through play are some of the key challenges ECD centres in the country continue to face, and it was to these issues that the hackathon turned its attention,” she said.

On the day, small teams of coders, ECD specialists and creative thinkers worked together for eight hours straight to find practical and low-cost technology solutions to these challenges.

The most innovative idea and R10 000 cash prize went to the team working on an app called Crèche Connect, which seeks to enable parents to rate a day-care centre’s effectiveness. The team, made up of individuals from: NGO, South Africa Education and Environment Project (SAEP), RegenAfrica, Western Cape ICT, NextGen pioneers, Business Connexion, UCT ICT4Dev and CodeX – none of whom knew each other prior to the hackathon, agreed that they would use the money to incubate the idea further.

Swart said there was a brilliant energy from participants on the day and a real buzz, which translated onto social media as well, where the hackathon was trending at #1 on Twitter.

“So often people are tempted to rush into solutions without really understanding the problem. A lot of time was spent explaining the importance of ECD to the teams, ensuring they understood the context,” she said.

“There were so many good ideas. But the judges really liked the Crèche Connect idea, which was based on the concept of Trip Advisor for crèches,” Swart said. “In low income communities informal crèches can have variable quality assurance. Being able to rank the facilities will help parents find the best crèche for their child and increase quality in the sector.  This idea was designed to empower parents.”

Other ideas included mobile referral systems for clinics, apps to identify developmental delays and ways to share knowledge and communicate across crèches to improve quality. Swart says, “There were funders, government officials and businesses who showed great interest in picking up the other concepts, so some ideas will be taken further.”

The event took place in the MTN Solution Space, an innovation hub located on the UCT Graduate School of Business campus. “We were very excited to host this event,” says Sarah-Anne Arnold, manager of the MTN Solution Space. “Our mission is to connect people for innovation and development on the continent.”

Dr Francois Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre said that once again the mechanism of the hackathon has shown its potential in drawing out innovative solutions that have social impact.

“The combination of people, action, and ideas in a motivated environment is powerful. These collaborative learning events have the potential to produce novel approaches to addressing key challenges. More than that, they provide all of us with inspiration and lay the foundation for new networks for support and bring new resources to oft-neglected issues, bringing purposeful mentorship to innovators in our society.”

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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