Hacking Sustainability for Street Children in Nepal
Our annual Data Respons Hackathon brought together six dedicated teams in Stockholm. This year’s challenge was given to them by Eva Holmberg Tedert from the NGO Gatubarn i Nepal (Street Children in Nepal).
Published: 18. January 2024
“Please put your great technology skills to use to develop digital solutions to combat poverty, reduce trafficking, and enhance the lives of children in Nepal. You have 24 hours!”
The challenge posed by Eva Holmberg Tedert on behalf of Nepalese street children was willingly accepted by the six teams, coming from the Data Respons subsidiaries: Sylog, YABS, EPOS CAT, Microdoc, IT Sonix and Frobese.
Before sending them off to their computers for an all-nighter, Eva Holmberg Tedert gave them a thorough introduction to the NGO she founded in 2010, to help the thousands of homeless children in Katmandu and elsewhere in Nepal. Among other things, Gatubarn I Nepal supports three child help and care centers, it finances the education of local Health Assistants, engineers, and teachers, and it assists local initiatives to combat human trafficking. Data Respons has supported the NGO for years through its Enabling The Young initiative.
In her introduction to the charity hackathon Eva reminded the 28 participants not to think too big, and to develop solutions that could be implemented by a small NGO run primarily by volunteers, and in a country where you cannot take the access to high-speed connectivity and complex technology for granted – often not even telephone services.
Eva did a fantastic presentation of their work. It was really captivating, says Madeleine Mellström from YABS who together with her colleague Maja Jonsson organized the event, located at the Sylog headquarters in Stockholm.
Also, she stayed behind to answer questions from the teams. Most teams had prepared some ideas in advance. But learning more in detail about the work of Gatubarn I Nepal, and about the technical and human resources available to it, I think some of them tweaked their idea a bit.
Starting out at 10 in the morning, the teams worked hard to develop their projects as much as possible before presenting it to the Hackathon jury 24 hours later.
The six projects had very diverse focus areas.
EPOS CAT’s “Help Me Study”
The five young developers from EPOS CAT chose to design an app named “Help Me Study”, with which Nepalese school children can train English pronunciation. As one of the team members, Moritz Reindl, explains, the children learn English in school, but only written, not spoken English. With the new app they can use their mobile phone as a training tool for pronunciation, somewhat similar to the well-known Duolingo app.
In fact, Help Me Study is actually a 2-in-1 app. Apart from training pronunciation it has a “Help Me” functionality, as human trafficking and child prostitution is a huge issue in Nepal. Children can push the “Help Me” button when approached by criminals, sending an alert to local police.
It was great fun working on the app, although none of us had any experience in app development. But we found what we needed on the Internet and managed to present the concept the next morning, getting lots of positive feedback from the jury, says Moritz Reindl.
MicroDoc – The Street Children in Nepal Game
The team from Microdoc also chose a mobile phone app, but with an altogether different focus. Their project was a mobile game, not for Nepalese children but designed for people in developed countries to raise awareness about the Gatubarn I Nepal NGO and to attract donations to its work.
We developed a small game showing the conditions many children live under, says Vithya Jeyachandran from the Microdoc team.
Online we found a 2D game engine and a number of readymade design elements and put them together to create a game, in which a Nepalese child is given a task. If the player competes the task he or she goes to the next level.
The game consists of three levels, the first one having the child overcoming a number of challenges on its way to school, the next focusing on human trafficking and abuse, and the third level concentrating on the dangers around water supply and poor water quality.
YABS – Professions guidebook
Donations were also at the center of the app developed by the YABS team of five programmers. Not money however but donating knowledge instead.
YABS software developer Charlie Kotro explains:
Education is extremely important, and getting access to it is not easy in Nepal. For a child, it is difficult to even find information about what you can become when you grow up, for instance a doctor, an engineer, or a schoolteacher. Our idea was to create a data base where people can upload information about different professions, to inspire the children to decide what their future education could be. As there is no steady access to the internet, we figured it was best to create a mobile app with which you can download educational information to your phone, when you have internet access, to store it for later reading.
According to Charlie Kotro the app can be seen as an alternative to donating money to a charity, allowing you to donate your knowledge as well.
Sylog Vest – A game that teaches you the basics of Programming
The team from Sylog Vest chose to focus on education as well, and programming in particular. They developed a gaming-based concept for Nepalese teachers and schoolchildren to learn the basics of programming.
IT Sonix – NGO Collaboration Platform
The IT Sonix team took a different approach. They looked at ways to improve the internal collaboration inside the Gatubarn I Nepal organization, as well as externally with other NGOs. They designed an open source based, networked management portal to optimize communication and collaboration, including functionality for social media post generation, resource management and accounting.
The Data Respons Hackathon winner of 2023
After 24 hours, at 10 in the morning on the 27th of October, the jury of the charity Hackathon jury arrived to see the six teams’ presentations and to find a winner.
The jury, consisting of Eva Holmberg Tedert from Gatubarn I Nepal, and Johan Jacobsson, Jonas Tillander and Niclas Fredriksson from Sylog decided on the Frobese project named “Digital art gallery for the unseen”.
Frobese project – “Digital art gallery for the unseen”
Inspired by an art exhibition in Kathmandu in March 2023, showing artwork by children supported by the NGO, the Frobese team chose to create a digital platform. At the original exhibition, visitors and tourists could view and purchase the images. They could also be purchased through social media via direct message.
To make the artwork produced by the children more visible and accessible, the team decided to create a website where people can see and buy the images, with the proceedings going to the children and to the organization.
We wanted to build a platform to promote the children and their creativity, while finding new ways to generate donations, Frobese team lead Stephan Bogansky explains.
In the beginning, our idea was rather huge. But, after talking to Eva, we decided to scale it down, to make it work within the scope of a small NGO, and to create something that would be useable in the short term, while allowing it to be expanded along the way.
We took a few open-source building blocks to develop the web application, which in short is a small content management system. It has a backend where you can upload the artwork and allow customers to buy it. The system is designed with simplicity and ease-of-use in mind, to enable it to be run by volunteers.
According to Eva Holmberg Tedert, manageability and easy implementation were two important factors in the jury’s choice of the Frobese project as a winner.
Many of the children we are working with have a creative streak. The Digital Art Gallery For The Unseen is an obvious way to promote their work, and in a format that is feasible for us. We can quite easily launch such a website, and I believe it has the potential to do a significant difference in our work.
According to Stephan Bogansky from Frobese, his team is now contemplating how to develop their project further into a finished product for Eva and her colleagues to implement.
It has been a real pleasure to witness the energy and dedication of the six Hackathon teams. I am deeply impressed by what they achieved in just 24 hours. Their energy was just incredible, and on behalf of Gatubarn I Nepal I would like to express my gratitude for their incredible work and commitment.
Eva Holmberg Tedert, Founder Gatubarn i Nepal