Kerala Technology
Icfoss hackathon aims to bridge a gap

The launchof IoT-Geospatial Hackathon campaign at the Icfoss office in Trivandrum. Photo courtesy: MD Niche

Icfoss hackathon aims to bridge a gap

Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on May 07, 2024
Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on May 07, 2024

India is now a powerhouse of software development and provides high-tech solutions to clients worldwide. This has fuelled rapid growth in India's IT industry, which now accounts for a significant portion of the country's GDP and export earnings.

But that is one side. On the other is a range of domestic challenges that keep growing. Issues like pollution, inadequate infrastructure, unscientific urban development, and environmental degradation continue to plague India.

Experts often highlight this dichotomy – a thriving IT sector coexisting with pressing societal issues. Calls to use technology to overcome such problems are yet to translate into reality.

A visible example of this disconnect can be seen right outside the Trivandrum Technopark, which is home to hundreds of companies and employs tens of thousands of IT workers.

On any working day, you can see dozens of people standing on the roadside outside the Technopark waiting for buses, without a clue when their commute would arrive

At a time and age when you can track your food delivery guy every second, our transport officials seem to have missed the technology bus completely.

While the government’s apathy is the obvious reason, the private sector has also failed to provide a way out of a problem that exists right under its nose.

An electronic board displaying details of the arriving buses at the stop outside Technopark and real-time location of those on the way would have been a perfect advertisement for the techno capabilities of the IT park. That would have also shown our public officials how technology can help the common people.

Many firms on that campus are capable of doing it. But lack of economic incentives and fear of bureaucratic mazes restrain them.

Thus, a wall separates technology and the common people who are left stranded on the wayside as private firms zoom ahead on the information highway.

One way to bridge this digital divide is to utilise the open-source community and harness its power to tackle the challenges faced by society. India has already made a start with facilities like UPI, Aadhaar, and Digi Yatra.

Now IIT Mumbai, IIT Tirupati, and the Trivandrum-based International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) are coming together to throw such challenges to the tech community through a national hackathon that will kick off in June 2024.

This IoT-Geospatial Hackathon will encourage students, professionals, and anyone interested in the issues to offer solutions to improve public welfare.

The idea behind this endeavour is to create open-sourced digital infrastructure on top of which private innovation can thrive.

The event aims to harness the power of open-source hardware, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to address modern-day challenges, say the organisers.

The registration for the event is scheduled to close by mid-June 2024, and the online contest stages will kick off soon after. The final round with the top talents will be held offline by the end of July.

To enter the hackathon, all one has to do is upload their idea in the required format on the IoT-Geospatial Hackathonwebsite. It provides an exhaustive FAQ and lists contact details of organisers should one need to know more.

The focus of the hackathon will be on areas like smart cities, environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, transportation, healthcare, logistics, weather forecasting, rural development, green energy, and sustainability, as well as disaster management.

Winners and even enthusiastic participants stand a chance to bag some of India’s most coveted internships, fellowships, and product development opportunities.

At the inauguration of the hackathon campaign, Kerala Rural Development Department director MG Rajamanickam highlighting the need for such efforts, emphasizing the water pollution in Kerala.

“The e-coli contamination in our water sources is high, showing how drainage water is seeping into it,” he warned. “Using geospatial data, we can monitor places where contamination is occurring and take remedial measures,” he said.

Despite the availability of such data through remote sensing and increased use of IoT sensors and AI, Indian officials continue with decades-old practices in key domains like public infrastructure.

The organisers say the hackathon is not a mere competition but a platform to develop solutions that can benefit not just India but countries across the world. While such incentives could sound inviting to youngsters, ensuring their participation is going to be a challenge.

As the Digital University of Kerala Vice Chancellor Saji Gopinath pointed out during the inauguration event, representatives from most of the technical institutions in Trivandrum were absent from the function despite this being a contest that helps students learn new skills.

As he pointed out, these hackathons are the way forward for educational institutions as the rote learning system followed by our universities is no longer useful to students, as technological changes are rendering what is in the syllabus obsolete.

Technology is speeding ahead, and hackathons like these are efforts to ensure that society benefits from its progress. Hopefully, this event will make sure that those left on the wayside will not miss the bus again.



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