By Kim Furman, Synthesis Marketing Manager
On 5 March 2020, over 140 Synthesis developers, code enthusiasts and solution seekers came together to develop for a cause in the annual Synthesis Hackathon. Ten teams were tasked to create technology to tackle gender-based violence.
The stage was set with just under 24 hours, hundreds of cups of coffee to caffeinate creativity, music, midnight snacks and one exceptional initiative – use tech for good.
These teams had 24 hours to create their tech and present it to a panel of judges, including 1st for Women representatives, Jolene Chait and Tula Yalpe, ChaiFM’s Kathy Kaler, Space Generation Advisory Council, Ani Vermeulen, My Broadband’s Jan Ani Vermeulen and Synthesis’ Michael Shapiro.
To get as many ideas as possible about the topic, Synthesis hosted a competition with radio station, ChaiFM, calling for concepts to tackle gender-based violence. The winner, Gavin Noik, submitted an idea that tackles domestic (repeated and once-off) violence through an app that is silently triggered with a keyword. The phone then begins recording and sends bursts to contacts and authorities so that as many messages can be sent through with location before the phone is potentially damaged. Gavin joined the hackathon as team lead and helped develop his concept.
Another idea that was created during the hackathon was “AImee” (pronounced AI-me,). This is a voice-activated personal safety location and tracking tool, where users can keep loved ones informed of their physical movements. Where the user veers off route or does not arrive at their planned destination, AImee attempts to establish contact with the user, failing which will send the necessary SOS to the preselected alerts and emergency contacts through integration into existing “panic button” applications.
The winning idea came from a team that created Mamela. This technology provides a safe and convenient way to log a police case from anywhere ensuring privacy and sensitivity to victims. It’s done digitally and guides the users on what information is needed for their case type. If implemented, this would aid in fast reporting and allow reports to be tracked to ensure action is taken and data is collected. It was also designed to provide access to instant emergency services using a panic feature.
“These are the kind of solutions we need, solutions that are technology driven but also take into account South Africa’s context such as high data costs. We hope to see some of these Solutions being made available to the general population in the near future,” says Zandile Mkwanazi, Chairwoman of GirlCode.
The winning technology was an app that empowers individuals in abusive relationships to track evidence, seek assistance and prepare a checklist to safely exit their relationship and lay charges. The use of this technology would allow the person to progress through three distinct stages of the journey. The first allows the person to realise what the signs of abuse are by answering questionnaires and then track evidence of this abuse without divulging their identity. The second stage allows them to reach out to people near them that they can trust or to organisations that are trained to deal with situations like these, also without compromising their identity. This phase is also geared towards helping the person prepare for the last and final stage. Finally, the person allows the system to know who they and the abuser are, and the system assists them in preparing all the evidence to take to the relevant authorities to lay a charge. The system is geared around helping mobilise the support network of people that were prepared in stage 2 in order to get through the very traumatic experience for the person. This idea is centered around the end-to-end journey of the person from realisation (of the abuse), connection (to other people) and finally action (to escape the abuse).
Jolene Chait from 1st for Women Insurance commented on the event, “we were delighted to partake in the Synthesis hackathon. Women abuse in South Africa is a burgeoning and complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach to address the underlying attitudes, beliefs, practices and systems that condone, justify or excuse gender inequality. In just 24-hours, the teams created viable solutions to assist victims and survivors and we were thoroughly impressed by the creativity, collaboration, innovation and enthusiasm of all participants.”
The hackathon was an experience like no other. The Synthesis building was full of energy, enthusiasm and a shared commitment to developing technology to help others that was not diminished, even without sleep. It shows that when people come together to create something positive, so much can be achieved, in the case of the hackathon 10 technologies to make a difference.