Design hackathon empowers young innovators

Zephaniah Maxwell Anyuru is a 24-year-old Graphics designer who spent last week participating in a design hackathon organized by Garage48 in collaboration with The Innovation Village and with support from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation.  

Within the first two days, he could barely hide his excitement. On the first day of the workshop, participants were tasked to create a “Motor-Toaster”, a fusion of a Bread Toaster and Motorbike. 

“With such a task at hand, you have to think outside the box and the way this workshop is going, I am excited about the hackathon ahead,” Anyuru says.   

His goal is to become a creative director in graphic design. He believes that attending this skilling event gives him an edge as he sets out in the field. So far, Anyuru says the workshop is helping him break through his perceptual limitations as well as giving him a new community because his specialty field tends to make one feel isolated. 

The five-day hackathon equipped youths with skills in digital design, user experience fundamentals, branding, and prototyping. The young creatives are now expected to enter the technology sector with the right skill sets.  

While addressing media at The Innovation Village, Garage48 Chief Operations Officer Kadri Koivik, said, “We’re here to promote a startup mindset, to teach digital skills, and to promote entrepreneurship. We are also here to promote teamwork.”  

Participants developed solutions and pitched them to design experts on Saturday. Top teams now will participate in the EU:Africa The Post Crisis Journey Hackathon program, an online African-European hackathon program aimed at bringing together digital enthusiasts from both continents. The winner will scoop a grand prize of €100,000. 

For Future Lab, a team whose role is to steer a culture of innovation among startups and corporations, skilling over 40 young people could not have come at a better time.  

“These youths are being equipped with design skills so that they solutions they are building are relevant. These types of skills enable the ideas of our talents to survive in the market,” Samantha Niyonsaba, Future Lab Lead at The Innovation Village said.  

Uganda’s Tech landscape 

Uganda has a young innovation ecosystem; young in terms of the age demographic of developers as well as the years of experience in the tech field. In order to grow this young ecosystem, there needs to be various stimuli that can generate skills, ideas and opportunities that create a vibrant culture of innovation. Hackathons are one of the proven tools that act as a stimulus for ideas to bloom.  

According to Garage48, initiatives such as hackathons have been the bedrock of innovation in Estonia. The country is famous for its flagship innovation, Skype. Beyond Skype, Estonia is known for its robust innovation and Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector that has 99 per cent of its governmental services online. This leadership in e-governance earned it the title of the most advanced digital society in the world, according to the Wire in 2020. 

Koivik said this record was not built overnight. Five years before, theirs was also an infant ecosystem that benefited from initiatives like these. “Hackathons are very crucial to the tech ecosystem because they enable innovators or entrepreneurs to develop solutions to the urgent social-economic challenges affecting communities,” Koivic explains. 

Commenting at the press briefing, Skills Development Specialist at Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Enoch Mutambi welcomed the initiative and said it is advancing the agenda of the government in both the labor and Information Communication Technology sectors.  He said, “We need digital skilling. The world of work is changing and so is technology. The skills requirements are changing fast as well. The skills we acquire while at school are outdated by the time we are finished. This means that continuous learning is the way forward.”  

The Government of Uganda is encouraging digital skilling and entrepreneurship through the new education curriculum that has ICT and Entrepreneurship subjects.  

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