#HackJozi – New ideas to feed South Africa’s digital economy

The top three most innovative digital ideas in the 2016 #HackJozi Challenge were
announced in Johannesburg in late May, marking the end of an intensive six-week
boot camp for aspiring South African tech entrepreneurs.

This year’s winner was Neo Hutiri, founder of Technovera, whose smart lockers cut
the time patients have to wait when collecting chronic medication at clinics from
several hours to just a few minutes.

Placed second was a multidisciplinary team behind Tuta-Me, a mobile application
connecting qualified tutors and students, enabling students to receive one-on-one
tutoring while helping tutors earn additional income.

Third place went to Lomile Mokoka, an architect who developed eSubmit, an online platform for submitting building plan applications to municipalities.

The winner gets R1-million in funding to fully develop the idea, while the two runners up each receive R350 000.

#HackJozi is a collaboration between Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) and the Johannesburg municipal government, designed to accelerate early stage ICT start-ups. Three winners were chosen from a shortlist of 10 finalists who best used technology to solve everyday problems.

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE, said the competition helped build
skills in South African ICT. More than that, each of the finalists contributed to
finding solutions for some of South Africa’s most pressing problems, particularly in
education and health.

“The winners and finalists also addressed a third challenge in that they each
contributed to developing entrepreneurship,” he said. “What South Africa needs is
for more people to believe they can create their own future, and #HackJozi helped
foster that spirit in participants.”

The end of the challenge isn’t the end of the journey for the winners and finalists,
Dwolatzky said. “The JCSE will work with each of the 10 businesses, and the wonderful entrepreneurs behind them, for the next year, with the support from the City of Johannesburg, to help drive their future success.”

The top 10 will also get a one-year free membership at the prestigious ICT Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, another Wits University initiative.

“#HackJozi gives the JCSE a great opportunity to work with local government to help launch 10 new ideas into the world,” Dwolatzky said. “Through the finalists’ success, we feed the digital economy with new business start-ups, where each new start-up means new jobs. #HackJozi is so important because it creates jobs, economic activity and the opportunity to build a tech ecosystem based on meaningful partnerships.”

Dwolatzky said he was confident #HackJozi, now in its second year, would continue to go from strength to strength.

“Year-on-year we’ve seen a step change and even more great businesses come through. I’m so optimistic that next year we’ll see a similar change, and that is a mark of great progress. #HackJozi is about making innovation happen and we’re doing something better every year.”

The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering is a three-way partnership between the government, academia and industry. Based at Wits University, the JCSE’s wide variety of programmes and facilities make it pivotal to the growth of software development in South Africa and the rest of the continent.

SouthAfrica.info reporter