By Jonathan Niles/IMA World Health

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t’s billed as a Hackathon. Yet when 60 Congolese software engineers, entrepreneurs and designers gather in Kinshasa on August 12, the result could help shape the future of health care in Africa.

IMA World Health has programs focused on strengthening health systems and fighting disease. Some of our programs that combat malaria and poor nutrition, have increasingly benefited from information gathering and processing tools that measure the breadth and effectiveness of our interventions.

As we continue to expand our data analysis and information gathering efforts, we need technical expertise to support these efforts. What better technologists to help us guide our efforts than Congolese developers who share our challenges on a deep and personal level?

For 72 hours, local developers around Kinshasa will assemble into teams and compete to develop solutions to environmental, governmental and social challenges facing their city in the first ever Kinshasa SmartCity Hackathon. A hackathon is a programming competition that engages software developers to collaborate on programs addressing a target theme – in this case, a smart city. Each team of three to five individuals will present their application to a panel of judges who rank the submissions on criteria such as technical elegance, ingenuity and fit to the competition’s theme. Prizes are awarded based on these criteria to the top teams and often relationships between developers or attending organizations last well beyond the event’s close.

“I am excited and privileged to be part of this unique event. Through the Kinshasa SmartCity Hackathon, we hope to build long-lasting relationships with Kinshasa’s technical community and foster ideas to address the information challenges facing health and development in the years to come.”

I will be joined by fellow IMA staffer, Bruce Panda, who will be a judge at the event.

IMA is a sponsor of the event and has the unprecedented opportunity to work in partnership with programming hub Congo iHub and local NGO, Elan RDC. Congo iHub’s is a local incubator and startup accelerator for programmers and entrepreneurs, providing resources such as meeting spaces, a stable Internet connection, electricity, equipment, advice and encouragement for free to Kinshasa’s programming community. It will be the host of the Kinshasa SmartCity Hackthon and provide a resource for developers long after the event. Elan RDC, focuses on private sector business development. Its expertise in forming partnerships with local businesses will provide a springboard for software developers who may not otherwise have an introduction to prospective employers. Together, we all face challenges in the business, health, development and other sectors, which will benefit from the creativity of software developers and entrepreneurs alike.

There is so much more to come!  Please join us in spreading the word about the Kinshasa SmartCity Hackathon and check the event’s  Facebook page for progress updates.

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