Hackathons past and future can build diverse teams of technological innovators

Hackathons provide an excellent opportunity to build diverse teams of technological innovators. The recent Americas Datafest demonstrated how technology experts, working in partnership with subject matter experts, could generate creative and promising ideas that can make a difference. And in April, the Microsoft Research International Women’s Hackathon 2014 will invite students to design software apps.

As the Microsoft Research Connections Blog reports, Americas Datafest – a hackathon that took place in November – brought together programmers, engineers, journalists, non-governmental organizations, data scientists and others for a weekend of intense, multi-city collaboration to address important issues related to migration in the Americas.

Teresa Bouza – the deputy bureau chief of Agencia EFE (the world’s leading Spanish-language news agency) and a Knight Fellow at Stanford University – and organizer of Americas Datafest, posted on the blog that “The idea behind the hackathon was to inspire contestants to build apps that make public and crowd-sourced data accessible and useful for migrants. We also wanted to create tools that facilitate outreach and data collection by NGOs and researchers. Ultimately, such efforts can provide evidence to inform immigration policies across the region.”

This hackathon was held simultaneously in 20 cities across 11 countries and each location nominated two top teams for our global awards. Their projects covered a diverse range of ideas. These won: ¿Dónde estás? (a measurement and mapping tool to search for Central American migrants in Mexico), Health24 (an app that helps migrants receive basic diagnoses and correctly identify and use over-the-counter drugs), Invio (a secure and easy-to-use mobile app that gives immigrants control over how and to whom their remittances are distributed), Migratio (a safety-focused database of migrants that includes tracking and geomapping features) and Salvaviajes (an SMS/Web communication platform for crowdsourcing alerts on migration-related issues within Central America and southern North America).

Read more about Americas Datafest on the Microsoft Research Connections Blog and find out how to participate in the International Women’s Hackathon 2014.

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Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff