What happens when you place a group of computer programmers in the same room as a group of ECD professionals and ask them to brainstorm solutions for early learning challenges in South Africa?

For a start, you get a lot of tweets. The first ever hackathon for ECD, which took place in Cape Town’s Bertha Centre during the last weekend in June, was the most talked about topic on Twitter that day. The commotion on Twitter was only a pale reflection of the level of excitement in the room!

Secondly, you get a wealth of cost-effective, practical and, most importantly scalable, solutions to early learning challenges with the potential to affect real change for children.

The hackathon for ECD was a brain child of the of Professor Mark Tomlinson from Stellenbosch University and the Bertha Centre’s Camilla Swart, and was executed with the help of Ilifa’s Innovation Edge.  Ahead of the event, seven Cape Town-based ECD organisations were asked to put forward their biggest challenges which require solutions – anything from limited access to nutrition, lack of parental involvement, training for practitioners, and safety considerations.

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The one day event saw representatives from those seven organisations paired in teams with coders and competing for the best tech solutions.  Here’s what they came up with:

  • An app which alerts caregivers to potential developmental delays in children by sending through prompts based on the child’s age and allowing the user to interact in a quiz format.
  • An app, adapted from a medical application in the Eastern Cape, which places the knowledge and advice of a medical specialist in the palm of an ECD practitioner.
  • A digital platform, combined with a hard copy text, which offers messaging around the essential package in an easily digestible format.
  • A caregiver digital FAQ hub housed in community libraries, which is continually updated based on the input from the caregivers themselves.
  • A community engagement systems which allows ECD leaders, be they creches or individuals, to share knowledge and best practice how-to’s.

The winning team, made up by CodeX and the SA Education and Environmental Project, came up with an application dubbed as the “Tripadvisor for creches”. The app address the problems mothers looking for reliable childcare services in their communities face by creating a responsive mobile website which allows moms to find childcare and review the service – building a network of accountability.

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CodeX and SAEP took home the R10 000 prize, which they plan on spending to make the app a reality.

For more on the Hackathon for ECD, read the story in the Cape Times.

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