Friday, October 31, 2014

MEST Entrepreneurs Win Top Prizes at Hack4Oil Hackathon

Entrepreneurs-in-Training from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology swept up all three top prizes at the recently concluded Hack4Oil Hackathon organized by Penplusbytes.

The two day event was held at the New Media Hub in central Accra, where talented programmers, entrepreneurs, and civil society organizations worked together to figure out ways to use technology to bring transparency and accountability to Ghana’s nascent oil and gas sector. The hackathon participants were challenged to come up with a solution, build a functioning prototype of the technology, and pitch it to panel of judges.

The eager participants quickly divided into nine teams and were paired with industry experts from both the public and the private sector who provided important insights into the Ghanaian oil and gas industry. The teams also had access to experienced mentors who gave advice on product development, strategy, and how to effectively communicate their solution during the final pitch.

Two days with little sleep and many lines of code later, it was time for the final pitch. The judges evaluated the solutions based on criteria such as the quality of the prototype, the idea’s ability to be self-sustaining, and the quality of the pitch.

1st Place: Oil Journey

Team Oil Journey emerged as the winner, with their website that allows users to follow the money from oil revenues as it is spent by the government on various social and civil projects in the users’ community. The website also allows users to report on the progress of projects. The Oil Journey team consisted of MESTers David Mumuni, Alfred Ayi-Bonte, and Abideen Adelu.

2nd Place: Bale

Team Bale presented a web platform that helps local SMEs take advantage of the business opportunities in the oil and gas sector. The team was MESTers Lady Omega Hammond, Abdul Suleman, Eli Agbenu, and Blessing Onomesino.

3rd Place: Planeteers

In third place was team Planeteers with a service for citizens and NGOs who live and work in areas impacted by oil and gas exploration. Users could submit findings and data in a public format that made it easy for the media to shed light on potential issues arising from oil exploration. Team Planeteers consisted of MESTers Jesse Johnson, Cheryl Tetteh, and Saviour Dzage.

Beyond the hacks and the cash prizes, it was exciting to see the Ghanaian tech community thriving and coming out to contribute their invaluable skills to important social issues. The quality of the solutions was also impressively high given the short time period.

I have strong belief in technology’s ability to bring about positive impact on society, and that belief was reinforced by seeing the talented programmers and entrepreneurs out in force at the Hack4Oil hackathon. Thanks to the organisers and sponsors for a great event.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Oil Journey wins top Prize at Hack4oil

Oil Journey wins top Prize at Hack4oil “Oil Journey” hackathon entry on how to enhance transparency in the oil and gas sector through an innovative tool which maps the journey of oil from exploration to production took the first prize at Hack4oil organised by Penplusbytes in partnership with Natural Resources Governance Institute (NGRI), Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and supported by STAR GHANA over 48 hours of hack days which ended on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at the New Media Hub located in Osu Ako – Adjei, Accra.

Identifying the challenge of citizens to effectively keep track of gains accrued from the exploitation of oil and gas, the winning prototype of the team made up of David Alhassan Mumuni, Alfred Ayitey Ayi-Bontey and Abideen Adelu, is a platform with an SMS and voice system where people can subscribe to and receive information on exactly which development projects or activities is funded with money from the oil sector. Our voice mail service is done in local languages to allow all people have access to information. The prototype allows citizens to trace, monitor and review the application of oil money with an opportunity to influence the determination of which areas they will like the money to be used at.

Coming in at 2nd and 3rd out of the total of 8 teams formed were Infoil and Planeteers respectively. Infoil developed a prototype to aid monitoring and accessing the use of oil revenue while the planeteers focused on a prototype that empowers local communities and advocacy groups by providing a channel to identify and report the impact of oil and gas activities on marine ecology.

The rest of the teams were IDDL, Greenlight, IWitness, team Global and team Mekasa; all of which worked and displayed their developed prototypes on the key thematic areas of transparency and accountability (Follow the Money), Environment and Health, and Policy and Regulation.

Present on the opening day of the hackathon were the media, representatives of stakeholder organizations, institutions and industry players such as the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS), Extractives Africa, West Africa Aids Foundation (WAAF) and the Petroleum Commission, and was mark by a brief ceremony which took the key-note address by Jim Cust, Head of Data and Analysis, and founding staff member of NRGI from his base in London as well as addresses by Kwami Ahiabenu, President of Penplusbytes and Mr. Benjamin Boakye, Project Manager at ACEP.

Hack4oil attracted an enthusiastic pool of programmers from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), CODERYTE, Future Pip, the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana Telecom University College and Central University College who later formed teams to compete for the top prize of developing the most innovate tool over the period.

Sitting on the Judges panel to help in deciding the quality and efficiency of the various, developed prototypes on display were Mrs. Ekua Odoom, Managing Director at MEST, Mr. Teemu Ropponen, iLab Liberia Country director, Mr. William Sam, CEO at Praescient Software Limited, Mr. Edward Tagoe Director, Partnership and Projects Blogging Ghana and Mr. Raybon Bulley, Institute of Financial and Economic Journalist (IFEJ).

HACK4OIL, first ever hackathon to be held in Ghana on oil and gas sector, saw collaborative participation of various stakeholder bodies and institutions working within Ghana’s oil and gas arena with their ideas and core knowledge in the area on one hand, and the more technologically savvy members of society - developers and designers with their skills on the other hand, to garner innovative means of enhancing citizen engagement, government accountability and resource transparency.

Penplusbytes’ New Media Hub is pleased to announce the hosting of “HackAgainstEbola” on November 19th and 20th, 2014 to help African journalists to develop prototypes against the Ebola epidemic.