Solving the Problems of Tomorrow: My Impact 2050 Hackathon Experience in the Philippines
It's Tuesday night, I went to work like I always do, not thinking that there is a huge National event that is happening tomorrow. In my mind, I will be there to just learn and observe, and that I can decide to leave the venue in the evening, and then come back the following day like your usual conference or summit. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. So there I was, like how I normally am, I decided to just play it all by ear. Welcome to my first Hackathon experience in the Philippines.
Day 1 - October 30th
Once I was in the event, I saw the registration desk, and I was asked by the attendant if I were a participant or an observer. I know that the rest of the team were already inside, so I sent them a message asking whether we're observers or participants, and they told me that we are participating. And so I informed the gentleman who was taking my information that I will be joining the event as a participant. I wasn't really sure what I was signing up for.
Once inside, I noticed that the Coliseum was packed with people, and finding my team was a challenge. I sent a message asking where their table was, and luckily, I immediately saw Carlo when he stood up, and I made my way to where they were. Lester and Daniel had their laptops turned on, and I didn't even bring mine. All I had with me was my mobile phone. During this time, corporate leaders and sponsors were already discussing the social problems that they want innovators to create a solution for. Odi was taking notes, and later those notes became very useful when we sifted through the many problems and topics that were of interest. Finally, we managed to figure out what we wanted to solve, and what we felt was the best solution to address the challenge.
We thought of building a ride booking app for Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) like Jeepneys. The app should be able to provide a more economical and reliable tracking and dispatch system for commuters in the Philippines. Our dream is to support the government's modernization plan by creating a mobile application that can track the location of the drivers, and dispatch a PUV to a passenger, and that this should be available and accessible to the average commuter via his or her handheld device. We named the app TripKo which basically means "My Trip" in the local language. The name is also a play on the slang for "I like it" which we believe can impact the adoption rate of the technology among the digital immigrants and natives.
It was during this time that I asked the team if the expectation was for all of us to stay there overnight, and, we were all looking at each other as it turns out that they too were first time hackathon participants (except for Odi), and had the same question. We were worried about our change of clothes and the parking fee since our parking tickets will incur penalties if we leave our car in the parking area for more than 12 hours. We realized once we read the program that we would be staying inside the coliseum for more than 36 hours - working on the codes, and the presentation of the final product. It was quite a relief when we found out that we can leave the premises and come back after. So I went back to the office to get my laptop, took a quick shower at home, tried to snooze for an hour and went back to the venue before 2 am to continue working on the project. The night went fast, with all of us planning, working non stop to finish the coding and working prototype of the mobile app that we wanted to present to the jury. I was assigned to work on the presentation which I uploaded to the site, and later I also found out that I would be presenting the app to the jury.
Day 2, October 31st
There was much excitement in the air as everyone were preparing for their pitch to their assigned jury. I already made some final edits on the presentation slide, and the coders were also done with the application.
At about 3pm, we were asked to gather on one side of the Coliseum, and the participating teams all took turn to present to the judges. We were only given 5 minutes to wow the audience, and we were the second group to present. I took the lead and opened the pitch with a story highlighting the experience of an average commuter during rush hour. I talked about the expensive rates of the other booking apps, and the danger of taking a motorcycle ride to work. I also shared that Manila is one of the worst place to commute, and that 25% of travel time is spent waiting for a ride. I talked about how the mobile app TripKo can help with reducing the waiting time for commuters by pre-booking their rides on Jeepneys. We capped the presentation with us showing the mobile app downloaded on our phone. A point of opportunity which I realized later in the day was to really have the audience explore the User Interface of the app. Alas, we ran out of time. Still the evaluators showed much interest, and one member even said that he found the concept very interesting.
Unfortunately, we did not make the cut to top 10. Still the experience in the event was worth the effort and the time. I personally learned a lot. I realized that venues like the Hackathon is perfect to encourage innovators in the country to really showcase their out-of-the-box, transformative, creative, and solution-driven thinking. And that the place is a hub for collaboration, networking, and potential partnerships.
I realize too the value of resilience, preparation, and endurance as key elements that make up a strong team to achieve success in a Hackathon event. 😊 Now, we know what to do. And we will be more ready in the future.
The Hackathon Event has really inspired me to look into the future with more interest and hope. I absolutely think that the Philippines is moving forward to brilliance in the coming years.
I am excited to see you all in the next Hackathon event. Onward to 2050!