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Social hackathon to create solutions around early childhood development

With the help of technology experts, creatives, and early childhood development (ECD) practitioners, the ECD hackathon hopes to find solutions to problems encountered in this sector. Some of the challenges include limited access to nutrition, lack of parental involvement, training for practitioners, and safety considerations. Along with its partners, Innovation Edge, the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University, GovHack, Ogilvy, and Silicone Cape, the Bertha Centre will be hosting the event.

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Seven Cape Town-based ECD organisations have been asked to think about their key challenges and how technology may help to facilitate. The creativity and feasibility of each solution will be judged by a panel of technology experts and ECD researchers. The best ideas will win cash prizes, along with the chance to apply for seed funding of up to R1-million. Innovation Edge is a new fund, focused on ECD and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and will be sponsoring the prizes for the event, including the potential seed funding.

Sonja Giese, Director of Innovation Edge says, “Advances in technology offer exciting possibilities for addressing challenges within the early learning space.” Giese hopes to ECD and technology innovation will solve problems, such as communication with parents about their child’s development, strengthen early learning practices, and educational resources for children living in marginalised communities.

A child’s lifelong health and intellectual development between the conception and the age of three is critical as a child’s brain undergoes an incredible amount of change. Investment into these studies has gained a substantial investment over the past five years. As a result, researchers have more insight on the importance of the first years of a child’s life.

According to Dr. Francois Bonnici, Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, based at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, “Latest research shows that investing in Early Childhood Development offers a high social return. However, the sector is fraught with complexity and we need innovation to surface new approaches to scale impact.”

The overall idea is an interesting one and something we should be seeing more of. More effect needs to be put into the education of South Africa’s youth. Once winners have been announced, we hope the ideas will be put through a long and thorough incubation and testing processes. Developing a child’s mind is something to take seriously and not to be exploited, or rushed.

Some examples of successful early learning solutions include AskMama, Mxit’s Groovy Adventures, and the 9Needs application.

The hackathon will be taking place on 27 June.

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