Project Update #3: Hackathon Introduction
October 20, 2017
Part of the: World Bank & Sexual Violence Research Initiative Project: ‘Combatting Sexual Violence in Kyrgyzstan through Innovative Education and Information Technology (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia)’
Dr Elena Kim, Dr Elena Molchanova, Aigerim Bakubatova, and Dr Frank G. Karioris
In the first two updates we have provided information about the ways that are project has begun work on the educational components of the project. The second component of our project is to find innovative ways to address issues related to sexual and gender violence in Kyrgyzstan through technology. Bringing these two components together, we have teamed up with a group of students from AUCA. Together they form the group Neobis. This group of technologically-savy students have been working on various projects.
On October 20th Neobis and our team collaboratively took part in a Hackathon at AUCA. Hackathons are held worldwide, and bring together various programmers and software engineers to come up with creative solutions to various problems or topics. The Hackathon’s theme was ‘A safe city and a safe environment’, and looked to specifically address gender-based issues. We couldn’t have asked for a more fortuitous and prescient topic.
Besides our team, there were fourteen other teams taking part in the event, with roughly 100 people involved in the various teams. These teams came from throughout Bishkek, working on a wide variety of projects.
Prior to kicking off the individual projects, the Director of Open Line, a local organization that assists women and marginalized groups, provided an introduction outlining the importance and seriousness of this topic. After her introduction, Alexey Sidorenko, a project manager at Greenhouse for Social Technologies, continued the discussion of the importance of these projects. He told the audience that it is important to remember that we are not police, but simply people with technological instruments. These can change the area of power in communication. We can mobilize technology to address violence, and that the technology you work on today can assist people to avoid violence and to protect their rights. In closing, he reminded us that the Hackathon is just the beginning, and that he hopes that each team continues developing their project and moving forward, because injustice and violence will never go away and we must keep working to address these issues.
One of the themes from both of these speeches was that the Hackathon cannot exist without the education component. This resonated deeply with the team and the project’s goals. This very much encompasses the overarching ethos of our project, recognizing that no matter the technological advancements education is the fundamental key to change.
The introductory segment of the Hackathon ended with a fascinating lecture by Oxana Silantievna, who will be teaching an intensive class on Saturday on storytelling. Her lecture covered the importance of how we tell stories and how this impacts on how others perceive the project. She told the group that storytelling is usually considered to be related to media or marketing, but that it is intricately related to technological initiatives. We should seek to engage emotional storytelling about what is happening and looking at what stories we have. Through this, we can expand the horizons and impact of the program. To do this we need to understand how stories are told, which we will learn more about throughout the weekend. Oxana’s hope was that the programs developed during the Hackathon would help bring together a variety of organizations within Bishkek and that it would have an impact on a broader level. She concluded by telling each group that they needed to think about the broader situation of the problem – in this case women in violent situations, who might not be able to access or control their phones or computers. Her final point was that each project should address a concrete problem or concern, and that it should do so in language that is accessible to everyone.
After these introductions there was a break for coffee. In Update 4 we will continue with how the first day of the Hackathon went.