KfW hackathon generates innovative urban health solutions

KfW General Manager Joachim Nagel awards prices to three winning teams

The winning team

At this year’s World Health Summit, KfW Entwicklungsbank organised a two-day hackathon at which teams of young experts from countries around the world searched for innovative solutions to urban health challenges. At the award ceremony KfW General Manager Joachim Nagel praised the three winning teams, saying that ‘the international community needs innovations like these to tackle the enormous challenges it faces’.

The term ‘hackathon’ is a combination of the words ‘hack’ and ‘marathon.’ It describes a collaborative event at which multidisciplinary teams come together for several days to develop innovative solutions to help address contemporary problems. Dr Patrick Rudolph of KfW’s competence center health chose this format to catalyse innovative thinking in relation to the health problems associated with rapid urbanisation in many low and lower middle income countries. Almost 40 mostly young women and men from around the world took part in the event, forming eight teams to jointly design their projects.

Innovative solutions to vector control, urban farming and noise protection

A jury consisting of KfW team leader Amelie d´Souza, ehealth expert Nadi Kaonga and Roland Göhde, President of the German Healthcare Partnership, assessed all projects and selected the best. The first prize was awarded to a digital platform called ‘VECTORFIGHT’, allowing its users to capture the prevalence of mosquitos, flees and rats – all vectors of dangerous diseases – in different parts of a city. Another digital platform came in second: It aims at bringing together urban farmers with unused urban areas of arable land to promote the production of healthy food within cities. An architectural project won the third price: Noise barriers around bus stops should give stressed city dwellers some peace and quiet.

If you want to move a mountain…

At the award ceremony

At the award ceremony, Professor Dr Joachim Nagel, General Manager of KfW, praised the winning teams and their innovative spirit, saying that they had produced excellent results in very little time. Given that the trend towards urbanisation was accelerating, and that health problems related to it were on the increase, new approaches to them, including digital solutions, had to be explored. ‚If you want to move a mountain’ he quoted a Chinese proverb, ‘you need to start by carrying away small stones’. With the small-scale IT solutions it generated at this year’s World Health Summit, the KfW hackathon seems to have done just this.

The winning team

The winning team of physicians, bio-engineers, computer experts and economists from Columbia, Ghana, Iran and Germany, who were granted one year honorary membership in the German Healthcare Partnership, had clearly enjoyed the hackathon experience. What was the key to their success? ‘We were lucky to have such a good mix of skills in our group. All of us were focused on producing a good result, no one tried to rule the rest of the group.’ Their next aim is to find sponsors who are ready to provide the funding it takes to let them put VECTORFIGHT into practice.

Friederike Bauer/Anna v. Roenne, October 2017

The projects for downloading

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