Hackathon Challenge
Equity Group Managing Director and CEO Dr. James Mwangi (Right) hands over a dummy cheque of Kes. 600,000 to Maluki Muthusi (centre), and Franklin Bosire (right) of team Rutela from the University of Nairobi who won first place in the first edition of the Equity Hackathon. A total of 663 students from The University of Nairobi and Meru University of Science and Technology participated in the Equity Hackathon held in partnership with Microsoft. [Photo/ Courtesy]

The first edition of the Equity Hackathon came to a close today and saw winners from The University of Nairobi and Meru University of Science and Technology deliver solutions to address business and social challenges in the Payments, Financial Inclusion and Digital Identity thematic areas. The Hackathon, which opened for registration on February 4, saw a total of 663 students register and compete to be among the top 120 shortlisted participants to take part as innovators.

Equity Group, in partnership with Microsoft, brought together hundreds of students for the virtual Hackathon which ran from February 17 to March 18 this year. The initiative challenged the students to be innovative and collaborate to build proofs of concept and minimum viable products for predefined business problems and social issues.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, Equity Group Managing Director and CEO, Dr. James Mwangi appreciated the participants for the creativity and innovation that they displayed during the competition, he said,

“This initiative has enabled us to see firsthand the wealth of innovation and creativity that we have in young people. We are in a world needy to find innovative solutions, it gives me great pleasure to see the Academia and industry partner to find solutions to real life challenges. I appreciate the students from Meru University and the University of Nairobi who accepted to take part in the Equity Hackathon,” Dr Mwangi said.

Microsoft Kenya ADC Program Manager, Irene Githinji noted that Kenya is emerging as an innovations hub, especially in the financial sector, and organizations need to start looking internally for solutions that will give them an edge in the market.

“We are indeed not surprised by the ideas we have seen these young students work on during the Hackathon. The spirit of innovation is ripe in Kenya and it is time for Kenyan corporates to start looking at local e*******n institutions and technology hubs for the development of unique solutions for their business needs,” said Ms Githinji.

Commenting on the Hackathon, The University of Nairobi Dean of Students, Dr Johnson Kinyua said, “such competitions provide our students with an opportunity to apply the theories that they have learnt in class into solutions that the world is looking for today, thereby preparing them to align their knowledge and skills to the demands of the job market.”

The Hackathon winners walked away with exciting prizes; the winning group got a cash prize of Ksh600,000, three months mentorship opportunity from Microsoft, Technical Cloud certificates for all team members and a gift hamper. In addition, the first and second runners up took home a cash prize of Ksh250,000 and Ksh150,000 respectively, a three months mentorship opportunity from Microsoft and a gift hamper. The third runners up won Ksh100,000 and a gift hamper for each team member.

Further, Meru University of Science and Technology Vice-Chancellor, Prof Romanus Odhiambo added that “Victory comes from finding opportunities in solving problems. I urge the students who have participated in the Equity Hackathon, to make the most out of this opportunity that they have been given. The seeds planted today, can blossom into global solutions. As institutions of learning, and through partnerships with the private sector, it is our duty to hone these skills for the benefit of our students and society at large.”

The Hackathon was phased into 4 stages, the first phase involved instructor-led and self-paced training of the participants on Microsoft Azure and the Business Problem Statements. In the second stage, the students went through the coding with mentorship from representatives from Equity, the University of Nairobi, Meru University of Science and Technology and Microsoft. Their solutions then went through a first and second knock-off stage, which culminated in the selection of the 4 winners.

The winner was team Rutela, from the University of Nairobi while the first runner-up was team Jazia, from Meru University of Science and Technology.

The second runner up was Hubert Kimani from the University of Nairobi while the third runner up was Team Code Ninjas from the University of Nairobi

Maluki Muthusi from team Rutela which won first place in the competition stated that, “The Hackathon has enabled us to sharpen our skills and align them to the demands of the marketplace. We are grateful for the guidance given to us by our lecturers and the teams from Equity and Microsoft throughout the competition and we look forward to applying the principles even beyond this competition,” he said.

Equity through the Hackathon seeks to tap the potential of participating students, encouraging them to be innovative, collaborate and create new design thinking while still in school. The Bank has formed a linkage with universities to ensure that the collaborative effort by the two entities, academia and industry, will share their resources effectively and efficiently to attain mutually compatible goals of technological innovation, enhancing global competitiveness and performing as an engine for economic growth.

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