Since 2018, a research, development and maker’s hub known as Vilsquare Global Resources Ltd. is running a community program called National Hackathon Series, an example to reinforce the “living together” in societies with huge diversity.
Targeting data science and civic technology across Africa, Vilsquare has deployed mobile tech hubs in conflict and non-conflict areas (all geopolitical zones) in Nigeria. At each of these mobile hubs, the team assembles diverse young (ages 18-30 years) humanitarian makers from all geopolitical zones in Nigeria to build Open Source technology solutions that solve their community problems while enforcing national dialogue and social inclusion.
With regards to results, the Vilsquare team foresees the applicability of National Hackathon Series in other countries of sub-Saharan Africa where the methodology of the Hackathon can be transposed with the same or more impactful results.
As an example Cameroon is a country presenting same features as Nigeria, and even more diverse.
Cameroon, a country with a big challenge of diversity and inclusion
Located in Central Africa, Cameroon is one of the countries in the world with the highest cultural diversity: linguistic diversity (242 languages, each grouping several dialects still), ethnic diversity (about 40 ethnic groups subdivided into several subgroups each, distributed in the 3 main troupes of the Global North, the Global South and the Global West), religious diversity (laic state, the country shelters Christians of all faiths, Muslims, Animists, other obediences and free-thinkers).
Despite this linguistic fullness, the only national and official languages are French and English inherited from the double colonization by England and France. However, despite the reunification of 2 Cameroon in 1972, the so-called rough bilingualism gradually became the subject of many complaints from the English-speaking minority (North-West and South-West) to the French-speaking part (the 8 other regions).
Combined with the ethnic, linguistic and religious diversities that already set communities apart from each other, the demands of the English-speaking part have resurfaced in 2017, stronger with the demand for federalism or independence of the English-speaking regions, namely North-West and South-West. The demand rejected by the government has led to separatist movements, demonstrations that the government then repressed by the massive deployment of the army throughout the English-speaking part: it results in fierce clashes, bloody killings and all kinds of carnage causing the massive displacement of populations to neighbouring countries and cities.
Inspiring Cameroonian youth through national hackathons
Launching a “National Hackaton Series” in Cameroon rises as one solution to overcome digital rights violation and tribalism. The country recorded an internet shutdown of 230 days between January 2017 and March 2018, longest of those blocks having lasted 93 days: stoking regional unrest, brewing frustrations, and crippling a vibrant digital sector in Buea, known as “Silicon Mountain”. Then, these internet shutdowns persisted in the pre-election period, with the spread of fake news, the wave of hate speech from one tribe to another.
With National Hackathon Series, citizens can create solutions to protect their digital rights and build an inclusive society to live in. Considering the results attained in Nigeria, such civic technology initiatives can help in solving real societal issues.
Getting Cameroonian Stakeholders on board
Vilsquare relies on the global context data and citizens of a given community to identify their own problems, needs and bring them to bear concrete solutions through the Hackathon. To address one main issue for one Hackathon, Vilsquare defines the central theme and let the participants define the specific issues related to it. Young people between the ages of 18 and 35 are targeted to be carriers of change through technology. They are either students, recent graduates, young entrepreneurs, young professionals, etc.
The Hackathon is then an opportunity for them, as technology lovers, to create solutions to everyday’s hitches in their respective communities. The chosen theme is generally driven by the major outbreaks identified in a country or a community, and relies on one or more SDG’s targets.
Launching Hackathons everywhere in Africa
Hackathons are above all places of intercultural, interethnic, inter-linguistic meetings and exchanges. They therefore contribute to the discovery and understanding of each other. Working with each other on the same project leads to learning and to coming out with a better conception of the tribe, the ethnic group or the whole linguistic community that they represents.
Categories: Civic Technology