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Cape Town - A Cape Town team walked away with R25 000 and access to Amazon Web Services’ AWS Activate programme after devising an app to help prevent incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) before they happen.

Dumisani Ncubeni from Philippi, Lihle Ndindwa from Nyanga East, Abulele Mhlungulwana from Ashton and Thomas Fihla from Nyanga East from SmartWare devised an app that serves as a panic button for those in danger.  

When triggered - either by pressing the volume button on one’s cellphone while it is in idle mode or by dialling ***# - the phone will send a broadcast SMS every minute notifying first responders such as community policing forums and alarm companies of the victim’s location. 

The team said due to slow response by police, their aim is to start getting help even before the crime has been committed.

The app also acts as an education platform for communities about GBV. 

“I always say I don’t believe that intelligence exists and if it does, it is governed by one’s proximity to information. That was the basis of what we built – giving people access to information so that they can empower themselves,” Ncubeni said.

A total of 60 up-and-coming software developers, IT professionals, trainers, civil society organisations, students, academics and professionals gathered at the Ernst & Young premises in Cape Town on November 23 and 24, to see how they could use technology to tackle GBV. 

This was the first of four hackathons taking place in Cape Town and Johannesburg over a one-year period as part of an initiative by the US Embassy in South Africa called Hackathons for South Africa: Digital Solutions for Real World Challenges.

“Gender-based violence is one of the worst issues plaguing our society.  Education and prevention, combined with the effective use of technology, are required to stop the destructive and vicious cycle of GBV,” said Subayi Kamuanga.

The ideas in the hackathon shared ranged from apps and wearable devices to panic buttons and educational games. 

NerdBirds – an all-female group of computer scientists and engineers - scooped second place and won the R15 000 prize. 

They conceptualised a game to help educate young minds aged between nine and eleven about GBV and the perceptions around it. The game is aimed to promote discussion and teach children about boundary violations and stereotypes, but with an element of fun.

The next hackathon will be taking place at the Rosa Parks American Library in Soweto in early 2020.

IOL