Teams of students will have 10 hours this weekend to create a mobile application or website to help social justice in Africa. They’ll be competing for three $1,000 prizes.
The Ford Foundation is sponsoring the “hackathon,” which will take place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in room 15 of Andersen Hall. Students will set up a mobile website or crowdsourced data application, which allows users to ask questions on specific topics.
Crowdsourced data applications like the ones that may be built at the hackathon give the “opportunity for the grantees to ask ‘does anyone know a solution to a problem concerning malaria, HIV, et cetera,’” said Gary Kebbel, organizer of the hackathon and director of the Center for Mobile Media. “At the same time, a wide variety of people can see that question, and perhaps someone will know the answer.”
The competing groups will focus on a “proof of concept” or partial solution for developing their ideas into product, according to Kebbel. Their online creations will be help 14 different nonprofit social change groups in Africa to aid others. Three judges – Cody Elmore, a junior advertising major, Adam Wagler, an educational media multimedia designer, and journalism professor Matt Waite, a creator of PolitiFact.com – will review the websites and applications.
Each of the 14 nonprofit groups is a grantee picked by the Ford Foundation, which supports select organizations for social change. One of the grantees, TrustAfrica, promotes government accountability and socioeconomic equality across Africa, according to its website. TrustAfrica and the other 13 nonprofits may use the applications and mobile websites to link people and solve common problems, according to Kebbel.
As Waite sees it, this event is for “students who are developers, builders, programmers and designers who are visually working with students in journalism and business who have skill, want to conceptualize things and all work together.” However, the event is open to the public as well.
The rewards are impressive, Waite said, because this is an event students will “really be able to sink their teeth into.” Students in the top three groups will also attend a mobile media conference on Nov. 30 to talk with developers and journalists at the Omaha World-Herald.
However, the most important aspect of this experience, according to both Kebbel and Waite, is not just extra cash and publicity.
“We’re hoping for students to have fun learning new skills relevant to today’s communication environment,” Kebbel said. “While they are learning and having fun, we hope the result of their work will be some cool new mobile apps that could be used by Ford Foundation’s social justice grantees.”