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Adapt IT | Telecoms Social Good Hackathon & How to Host Your Own

On the 28th of September 2019, computer science students from Wits University Johannesburg, South Africa, gathered to participate in the Adapt IT | Telecoms Social Good Hackathon.

Wits University computer science students taking part in Adapt IT’s 2019 Hackathon.

The students had only 10 hours to build a FINTECH Solution using code and epic brain matter. 

This included building a “Taxi Money” project where they made use of a mobile wallet and QR codes to exchange money in the system. They also got a chance to play the role of a Bank, User-Agent and Service Provider. 

A Wits University student in action, using Mobile Wallet codes in the “Taxi Money” project.

Towards the end of the event, Adapt IT | Telecoms Divisional Executive, Steven Sutherland awarded prizes to two students, Mxoliso Shongwe and Freddy Maepa.

We encourage you to hold your own hackathon; in this article, we’ll provide a short guide for doing that.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is typically an event where a number of people – usually some technical company staff members, university professors and students – get together for a specific and short period of time, to collaborate on a project that revolves around computer programming.

Purposes vary, but the general objective is to use code to come up with solutions to real problems.

Participants usually work flat-out to address challenges in a short period of time, sometimes going without sleep to do so.

Adapt IT | Telecoms’ hackathon took place over the course of one day, starting at 08h00 and ending at 18h00.

Benefits of a hackathon

How students benefit

Overall, for the student, a hackathon makes what they are studying, come alive. 

It provides understanding and reality of what they are striving for by attending university, or college. Now, they are not just studying for a career, but instead, a hackathon shows them what they are aiming for, and so it gives them motivation to work harder, get more skills, get better, improve their curriculum vitae and so on.

For the student, there is no better way to become inspired than to get a glimpse of what life may be like when their studies come to fruition.

In addition, if companies who hold hackathons provide some kind of tutelage as a prize, the winners get an added advantage of not only mentorship, but improving their resume and practical work experience, setting them up to be a future champion in their career.

How organisations benefit 

Besides the satisfaction of being able to provide mentorship and upskilling of youth, organisations that host hackathons may benefit tremendously by getting fresh perspectives from people who are not in the organisation, and as such, have completely different thinking. 

This often provides companies with solutions to challenges they would not have come up with on their own, or new insight into products and services they would not have had.  

It’s a win-win situation for both students and companies.

How to host your own hackathon

Our first suggestion is to attend a few hackathons before hosting your own, so you can get a feel for it. 

You will need approximately two to six weeks of planning, depending on the complexities of the event.

Then follow these steps:

1. First clearly understand your objective.

2. Assign one person to take ownership of the project.

3. Get your marketing department on board to get their input, and so that they can promote the hackathon in time.

An example of marketing a hackathon on Facebook.

4. Come up with a theme. For example, this year, our theme was, “Build a FINTECH Solution using code and epic brain matter”.

5. Think of likely participants and make arrangements.

6. Plan the event, factoring in the logistics, transport, venue and access, people who will attend, any catering requirements, and the participants.

7. Come up with one very cool prize.

Adapt IT | Telecoms Divisional Executive Steven Sutherland awards students, Mxoliso Shongwe (left) and Freddy Maepa (right) with the drawcard prize: cool headgear plus a chance to work and be mentored at the company during vacation time.

8. If you are going to need sponsors, decide what your company will do to benefit them.

9. Conduct marketing of the event and during the event.


Adapt IT | Telecoms will continue to create a positive impact in the technical industry by hosting hackathons, and your organisation can too.

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