24 hours. That’s how long it took one of the Intel Code for Good hackathon teams to develop a functioning mobile app for World Pulse, a nonprofit dedicated to helping girls and women have a greater voice in more than 185 countries. At the end of March in Hillsboro Oregon, fifty Intel employees participated in our first ever Code for Good hackathon focused on solving challenges facing girls in education. A hackathon is a work session where software developers, user experience folks, programmers and passionate people collaborate to develop solutions on a specific topic in a constrained time period.
As one of the organizers and being a non-techie myself, I was floored at how Intel’s employee teams came up with functioning solutions and prototypes in 1 day. It was my first exposure to how a hackathon works and its method of problem solving. When we first came up with the idea, my colleague, Josh Bancroft, in the Software Service Group and I talked about what a cool collaboration it would be to tap into the technical skills and brain power of Intel’s employees to solve some of the hardest challenges facing the globe. Given Intel’s focus on supporting the education and economic empowerment of girls and women through technology, we decided to focus Intel’s first Code for Good hackathon on the challenges girls face to get an education in many parts of the world. We worked with incredible nonprofits such as Room to Read, 10×10, World Pulse and Global Campaign for Education, for about 6 weeks to define a set of problem statements that our employees could tackle.
With access to the internet, good food, power – and coffee, teams formed and worked tirelessly with our nonprofit partners all day. The atmosphere was charged with energy given the magnitude of what had to be accomplished in such a short time. One of my favorite moments was hearing one team consisting primarily of men try to get into the heads and understand the constraints of their target end user – girls and women in Africa struggling to get an education – so that they could develop the right technical solution. Many teams went home that evening and kept working throughout the night to finish. The second day of the hackathon consisted of presentations by each team, a judging process and celebration of what the teams had accomplished. Amazingly, the impact of the solutions doesn’t necessarily end with the hackathon event itself. Several teams are committed to working with the nonprofits to see that their apps get implemented and deployed.
Water, entrepreneurship, and more education challenges—all ideas employees are proposing as a must do for a future Code for Good event. The evidence made a compelling case– give Intel employees 24 hours and we can start making a dent (one app at a time) towards these global challenges.