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March 20, 2018

Tech solutions for Zero Hunger: WSIS Hack Against Hunger

By ITU News

More than 800 million people worldwide are undernourished, while more than a billion tons of food never make it to the table. How can information and communication technologies (ICTs) make a difference to help ensure food security, improve nutrition and prevent famine?

At the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland more than 75 ‘hackers’, coders, engineers and agriculture experts formed 14 teams to tackle world hunger, through innovative applications of technology in a 36-hour hacking marathon (hackathon) that began Sunday morning.

From a data-driven solution to monitor ground water to an app to prevent food waste to container farms using intelligent transport to a global mapping project to track national seed policies – the proposed solutions represent ground-breaking approaches to the global problem of hunger.

The WSIS Hack Against Hunger is a global Hackathon organized by the ITU, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Impact Hub Geneva to identify and support innovative solutions that address the challenges around sustainable food and agriculture.

The second annual WSIS Hackathon took place on March 18–19 at the ITU Headquarters in Geneva during the WSIS Forum 2018.

Regional solutions go global!

Several regional hackathons took place in preparation for the global hackathon in Geneva. The Hack Against Hunger Africa, took place on February 16–17 in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition, Hackathons in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Egypt all produced winning solutions that were further developed in Geneva. The process for selecting, nurturing and supporting hackers was a dedicated process over the past few months.

RELATED: World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2018 kicks off in Geneva

For example, the local winning solution at the #HackAgainstHunger Africa was Kiza Lab Solutions. They made an electronic sensor to be buried into the soil to transmit data to the web-based platform that will provide adequate information to the farmers to reduce waste throughout the production chain. They were able travel to Geneva for the #HackAgainstHunger at WSIS Forum 2018 with support of the ITU.

In addition to travelling to Geneva for the global Hackathon, how have the regional winners benefited from their success?

“Since we won in Hack Against Hunger Africa we already have incorporated our solution, Kiza Lab, into a corporation in Rwanda,” said Lambert Rulindana, speaking to ITU News.

The Hack Against Hunger Caribbean included two events that took place simultaneously in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago on February 17–18. The Winners of the regional hackathons joined the WSIS Hackathon in Geneva to further scale up their solutions into versions 2.0.

The global nature of this event saw participants from all 4 regions work together, and the event was nearly perfectly gender balanced.

It was great to see so many diverse teams using the talents of men and women of all ages collaborating to end hunger!

ICTs for Zero Hunger

Consider that 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and 2.5 billion people derive their livelihoods from agriculture. However, low agricultural productivity, poor transportation systems and limited access to technologies are all factors that affect farmers and sustainable agriculture. This is exactly where tech solutions are crucially needed.

One team, agrishare, aims to increase digital literacy of farmers and to connect farmers to an online community and offer digital skills training for farmers. Food Vibes, from Switzerland, aims to use data to reduce food waste by buying blemished or “ugly” fruits and vegetables at a discounted price. Change Makers from Tunisia, aims to leverage the trend of sharing social media food photos to have users share via an app which raises money for farming projects.

Sophisticated ICT solutions ready to scale

In the closing ceremony, all solutions were celebrated as possible winning solutions, and certificates were given to the most sophisticated projects that proved the most ready to scale.

“You are all winners because you are all here and you have proved that your solution is going to change the world… and solutions today are not coming from a single point of view,” said Samuel Varas, IT Division Director, FAO.

“You are hackers for good. In the Hack Against Hunger… you are helping to bridge the gap and are giving a human face to ICTs,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Development Bureau at the closing ceremony.

In no order, the top solutions were: A-grow from Jamaica, a team working on a solution to benefit the government’s Ministry of Agriculture to improve communications between the ministry and farmers.

Another was McFly, a team from China that proposed using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to solve the problem of excessive pesticide spraying.

And AgroUp, an all female hacker team from Ethiopia aims to address gender barriers in rural agricultural communities by raising gender awareness alongside agricultural training programmes.

Last year’s Hackathon was run in cooperation with WHO to tackle urban health challenges at the “Hack for Health” and next year ITU will partner with UNESCO for e-learning solutions.

RELATED: Global solutions for urban health: WSIS Hack for Health

View all the photos from the Hackathon on Flickr.

Follow the conversation on Twitter #HackAgainstHunger

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Tech solutions for Zero Hunger: WSIS Hack Against Hunger

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