Coders tackle development challenges

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Bereng Mpaki

THE 2016 edition of Vodacom Lesotho Foundation’s programming competition Code4Development Hackathon has unearthed two outstanding solutions that have the capacity to solve existing real life challenges.

Code4Development Hackathon is an annual computer programming competition where programmers, entrepreneurs, designers and hacking enthusiasts from all corners of Lesotho come together to build implementable solutions to problems in business and various areas of social development.

It has been held since 2014 when Vodacom Lesotho Foundation entered into a partnership with the National University of Lesotho (NUL)’s Science and Technology Society.

This year’s event which was held on the 19th and 20th of November during the Entrepreneurship Expo, produced among other things, a banking solution and a pothole detection solution.

There were three categories including telecommunications where participants were challenged to develop a national employment database management solution for use by government, private sector and the general public.

There was also a banking category where participants were challenged to develop a solution to help banks to “Know-Their-Customer” and verify their client’s information.

The third was an open category where participants could build any solution of their choice to a problem they identified in society or in business.

Molefi Mokoebo, who produced the winning pothole detection solution, told the Lesotho Times he ended up developing the solution to a real life problem he had experienced first-hand after entering the competition just to sharpen his programming skills.

Mr Mokoebo said his solution was inspired by an unpleasant incident where one of the tyres of his family car was punctured after hitting a pothole on their way from his graduation ceremony.

He holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Systems and Networks from the NUL.

“That incident which turned me into a mechanic on my graduation day, led me to think about a solution for quickly detecting potholes so that they could be fixed before they caused similar problems to other motorists,” he said.

For her part, Vodacom Lesotho Foundation Communications Specialist Thato Mochone said her organisation sought to improve lives through the use of technology to create solutions to everyday challenges.

“We have used our technology in various areas to better the lives of Basotho, through our products and services, or through our technology in health and education transforming the way healthcare and education is accessed and delivered in Lesotho.

“This is yet another way to expand the scope and tackle more areas of development where technology can play a key role,” she said.

She said the winners would receive support worth M10 000 to ensure their solutions were actually used to solve problems in order to change the lives of Basotho.

“We want to scale up the impact and sustainability of the winning projects to ensure that they do not just end in the coding room but are actually implemented for the betterment of the people,” she said.

She said this year’s competition featured high school students for the first time, in addition to participants from the usual local and South African tertiary institutions as well as entrepreneurs and programmers in different industries.

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