By Mavliuda Dzhaparova

BISHKEK, 28 March 2016 – The Google Developers Group Kyrgyzstan and UNICEF organized the first hackathon “Technologies for Children” attended by thirty IT specialists on 25-27 March.

Young boys and girls as well as experienced developers dedicated their weekend to finding innovative solutions for challenges faced by children in the country. About 400 children living with HIV need user-friendly mobile solutions to improve their adherence to the antiretroviral treatment. Parents of over 26,000 children with disabilities living in Kyrgyzstan have limited access to social services as well as resource centers. UNICEF Kyrgyzstan also faced difficulties while collecting data on health status from households, especially in the remote areas Therefore, IT experts were invited to work on these three areas during the hackathon.

Raoul De Torcy, UNICEF Deputy Representative is greeting participants on the first UNICEF's hackathon UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova
Raoul De Torcy, UNICEF Deputy Representative is greeting participants on the first UNICEF’s hackathon
UNICEF/MDzhaparova

The first day, UNICEF and its partners presented the main issues and barriers on the medical treatment of children with HIV, collecting data on health status from households and developing digital resource centre for parents of children with disabilities. For example, the previous UNICEF’s HIV monitoring system as well as data collection system on health status were widgets which could come only with certain mobile phones or tablets; parents of children with disabilities were experiencing difficulties with information and resources sharing. Based on these issues, IT specialists started to choose desirable hitches to solve. After the presentation we had seven teams that consisted of two to seven people who were specialized on building a base for websites or mobile applications, designers, and JAVA developers.

Erlan Joldubai uulu, JAVA Specialist: “Participating in a hackathon dedicated for children is so special. That’s why I am here with my friends. We think about developing something useful like IT products for children. Because of children. Children are important.”

The second and third day were devoted to developing a sustainable digital solution for the presented topics, such as HIV monitoring, a data collection system on health status, and a website for parents of children with disabilities. The work in the groups was fascinating. Every step in the construction of the website or mobile application was followed by discussions, information research, consultation with mentors and finally prioritization.

Mentors from UNICEF and Google Developers Group guided and supported teams in developing new solutions. UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova
Mentors from UNICEF and Google Developers Group guided and supported teams in developing new solutions.
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova

By Sunday evening the teams were ready to present their solutions. The first winners of hackathon were a duo that developed a mobile application called ‘Gladiolus’ for monitoring the medical treatment of children living with HIV. The “Gladiolus” was designed to be independent and uploadable to any smart phone. Also, a new mobile app allows young patients to chat in the forum and better track their treatment.

Young IT specialists were enjoying the process of innovation UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova
Young IT specialists were enjoying the process of innovation. UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova

The second winning team came up with a friendly and comprehensive website design for a digital resource centre for parents of children with disabilities. The third winning team provided a solution for collecting data on health status from households through application using tablets or smart phones.

“Technologies help to reach many people at the same time. Why not to target children? Why shouldn’t children benefit from innovations? I believe that innovations have to work for children,” reflects Cholpon Abdujaparova, one of the four girls, who participated in the hackathon.

At the end of the hackathon, UNICEF received three almost ready to use products: one mobile application, website and data collecting tool. All of them will be integrated into UNICEF’s programmes in Kyrgyzstan and help to improve children’s wellbeing.

One of the few girls who participated in the hackathon - Cholpon Abdujaparova UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova
One of the few girls who participated in the hackathon – Cholpon Abdujaparova
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2016/MDzhaparova

Edil Tilekov, HIV UNICEF Porgramme Officer highlighted the importance of the event: “Hackathons are a great opportunity for UNICEF partners to exploit new ideas and innovative solutions in their everyday programmatic activities. More important is that youth from the IT community are participating in the process of improving the lives of the most vulnerable children, among their peers.”

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