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All aboard for #TrainTourHack debut

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Seventeen coding teams are set to take on the tourism tech challenge.
Seventeen coding teams are set to take on the tourism tech challenge.

How do you inspire coders to develop tech solutions for the local tourism industry?

You send them on a tour of the country, of course.

Geekulcha has partnered with tour operator Zulu Nomad, market research company BrownSense InSight, and the National Department of Tourism to host the inaugural #TrainTourHack in September.

A Premier Class train, with 17 teams of coders on board, will travel for 36 hours from Johannesburg, via Kimberley, making its final stop in Cape Town.

Says Geekulcha’s COO Tiyani Nghonyama: “If local geeks can explore the country, they will be able to build better solutions based on what they have experienced.”

The 42 hackers, split into 17 teams, as well as mentors and travel influencers, will be part of the #TrainTourHack. In order to make it onto the train tour, aspiring coders had to submit a written proposal, putting forward a solution for the travel and tourism industry.

The categories they could chose from were:

  • Experience - where data can be derived to understand tourist experiences;
  • Accommodation - using tech to attract travellers to townships and rural areas;
  • Travel medium - developing a solution that can guide tourists reliably;
  • Tours and attractions - using geodata to enhance the travel experience;
  • Logistics - improving efficiency in tourist logistics.

As one of the tour’s sponsors, the Tourism Department requested that the hackathon have representatives from all nine provinces. There was an open application process for the general public, while special invitations were sent to ICT students at the Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape. Hackers who have taken part in previous Geekulcha hackathons from other provinces were also invited.

Nghonyama says R250 000 will be set aside by the event sponsors to support the winning solution. “The national Department of Tourism is also putting measures in place to ensure the uptake of the winning solution.

“The key thing is to make sure that tourism startups are created, as they’re needed for the tourism data economy.”

The Train Tour Hack will take place from 5 to 8 September.

Final presentations will be hosted by Open Up South Africa, a civic tech organisation based in Cape Town.

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