Hackathon calls for tech solutions to gender-based violence
South Africa’s gender-based violence statistics are consistently ranked amongst the highest in the world. We have the fourth highest rate of femicide - a woman is murdered every three hours - and there is an average of 114 rapes reported to the police daily.
Gender-based violence will be the focus of a hackathon that will be taking place in Cape Town later this month.
It is the first in a series of four hackathons initiated by the US Embassy, in partnership with Silicon Cape, which will be hosted in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and hope to address real-world challenges that South Africans face today, like water supply issues, rising unemployment among youth, mental health and women empowerment.
Other partners include Amazon Web Services, Dimension Data, HackOn, GirlHype, Nu Beginning, DreamGirls Academy, TechPearls, Future Females and The Loudhailer.
The inaugural hackathon will be held on 23 and 24 November at the EY premises at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
The organisers are inviting emerging software developers, IT professionals, civil society organisations and students to attend and compete in developing “innovative digital solutions to the problem of gender-based violence”.
Sumarie Roodt, Silicon Cape chairperson, says the hackathons aim to bring to the fore real solutions that could help real people. “We want to instil hope and would like to upskill all participants with new mental models and frameworks that they could apply to other areas of their lives. Most importantly, we want to build stronger communities and build a bridge between South Africa and the USA.”
Will Stevens, deputy consul general at the US Consulate in Cape Town, says: “The scourge of gender-based violence is something that affects our communities here in South Africa as well as the United States, and we must stand together to stop it. By bringing together South African and American civic activists, coders, and creatives, we believe that this hackathon will offer real solutions to help tackle the problem in both our societies.”
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.
The winner will be connected with developers, angel investors and venture capitalists, through Silicon Cape, to help bring their solution to life. Amazon Web Services will also give the winning team $10 000 worth of access to the infrastructure needed to scale and grow and AWS Business Support valued at $5 000.
Uniting to help
“Tech solutions can be particularly useful in places like rural South Africa where the police are far away but women have smartphones that can act as panic buttons,” comments Itumeleng Moloko, counselling service manager at People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA). “GPS location can also be used by the police service to know where to locate a victim.”
She says POWA has tried to capitalise on tech opportunities and actually launched their own anti gender-based-violence (GBV) app in 2017. But it had died out by 2018 because of a lack of funding and little support from the Department of Social Development.
Their app would have run data-free and be linked to a call centre specially staffed with social workers to offer counselling. It would have also had a panic button that women could use and be called back, if they have no airtime of their own. The call centre would have been equipped with a database of services available in areas where women can be referred to organisations near them.
“With problems such as GBV, there’s no use competing against each other in the public-private space. It’s about uniting to help the survivors’ of GBV. The more resources and initiatives we have, the better.”