African Utility Week hackathon — make a difference to Africa’s electricity woes

Electricity shortages is the single biggest challenge African entrepreneurs face. That’s according to the Omidyar Network’s sublimely comprehensive Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa report.

What Africa has no shortage of however, is creative thinkers, and that’s why the 13th annual Africa Utility Week is organising a 48-hour utility hackathon to uncover innovative solutions for Africa’s power, water and sanitation problems. The hackathon is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Center (CTICC), and runs from Tuesday 14 May to Wednesday 15 May 2013.

The African Utility Week conference and exhibition is a gathering of professionals in the African utility sector and private sector solution providers. The utility hackathon encourages power and water utilities to seek solutions outside the norm.

Essentially anyone who wants to make a difference is invited to join, but special mention is made of social entrepreneurs, innovators, open source developers, data scientists, designers, open hardware enthusiasts and project manager.

MTN, who backs the hackathon, will hand out prizes for the best solutions — last year’s team won a Galaxy Note and hackerspace-incubator hybrid, House4Hack pitched in with some gift vouchers for the winning team.

Solutions developed during the previous hackathon include Open Pump Monitor — an Arduino monitor, connected to an inexpensive Android phone which acts as data logger and sends the measured power quality to a server written in Clojure — H2O Detective — built on top of the e-breadboard framework, H2O Detective is an Android that allows fieldworkers to identify and manage consumers with high water consumption — and Map the poison — an Open Data Kit (ODK) and Google Fusion Tables solution that helps fieldworkers map spots along a wetland system where poorly treated and potentially poisonous effluent is being discharged.

The solutions produced during the hackathon will belong to the hackers and they can either donate it as a once off solution to the utility initiative or develop a relationship to continue working on the project with them.

Although there is no guarantee that talk around funding will take place, one of the judges is from KfW, a German government-owned development bank group, and event organiser Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl tells us that the event hopes to attract another investor from the finance sector.

Check out the event invitation for the full agenda and contact details.



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