Four students from the University of Cape Town represented South Africa at the 2011 Imagine Cup finals in the USA. Their presentation was not without some last minute drama, as the fourth member of the team, who was granted a visa only on the morning the competition started, rushed across the world on a 30-hour transit to join his team mates in New York. He arrived, literally, 10 minutes before the team were scheduled to present, and with a few frantic adjustments to their presentation, were ready to present their 18 months of work.
Their system, HAWK, a web-based crowd-sourced social disaster management system, was presented to an international panel of judges which included previous Imagine Cup finalists who went on to start their own companies based on their projects. The presentation told the story of disjointed emergency response in Cape Town, and how social media is being increasingly used to coordinate and aggregate information in the region. Along with some demonstrated functionality, which showed the systems open citizen journalism platform, community collaboration platform, and pseudo early warning system. The team also talked through their development approach, system architecture and how they developed the HAWK user experience.
The panel received the presentation well, and the discussions and questions which followed showed the entrepreneurial focus that the competition embodies, where the team discussed how they’ve approached mobile development in the African context, business models to realistically implement the solution, and their vision of delivering HAWK as a South African government e-services channel which marries the ability of crowds to create and curate information that’s actionable and reliable, with the resources cities and municipalities have to offer.
While team South Africa weren’t shortlisted into the 18 semi-finalists who will compete for the Imagine Cup honours, the team are participating in the student learning sessions which covering new windows technologies like Windows Phone 7 and cloud development in Azure. The atmosphere of innovation and entrepreneurship at the competition is infectious, and inspired by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote (and the free Kinect Sensor which Microsoft is giving to every participant), the team are enjoying learning and sharing new ideas and technologies.
Imagine Cup continues to promote talent, and emphasises the ability of young thinkers and developers to solve world problems. Team South Africa look forward to enjoying the remainder of the Imagine Cup experience, and hope to pave the way for future teams representing the country to shine on the international stage.
For more information on the project Hawk
Follow them on twitter: @gohawkcoza
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