In April, we brought you the news of the GIZ Gamification Hackathon for Social Good, which took place in May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as part of eLearning Africa 2015. The event brought together makers from across Africa for a unique event that channelled their creativity, innovation and sheer endurance to come up with gamified solutions to social problems.
By Alicia Mitchell
Spread over four days, and two venues, the hackathon challenged participants to develop apps, platforms or software that would use the premises of gamification to promote sustainable development in Africa.
Having worked round to clock to bring their ideas to fruition, the teams then presented their pitches to a jury of expert judges. After some intense rounds of questioning and deliberation, it was Afri Team One, with their crowd-sourced, interactive platform for cultural understanding, who took the top prize.
Speaking to the eLearning Africa news team after their victory was announced, Afri One team member James Mugo Muna explained what their app was all about: “we are trying to get people to experience cultures in a new and interesting way … and to prevent tribalism before it happens.” Their gamified app puts players into a virtual world, populated by content uploaded by other users, thereby promoting engagement in other cultures and, hopefully, cultural empathy and understanding.
Other apps that impressed the judging panel included a quiz-based game to promote citizenship and political engagement, and a financial education app that uses gaming elements to teach players about the fundamentals of personal finance.
Although the hype of the hackathon may have died down, the hard work is far from over. With the help of the GIZ, Team Afri One must now finalise their platform and have it up and running by December, ready to present to an audience of more than 2,300 international technology-supported learning experts at the annual OEB conference in Berlin.
Describing the experience of organising the project, Volker Lichtenthäler, a senior consultant at the GIZ, noted that the greatest challenge came about as a result of the unique application process and resulting diversity of the participants. Whereas usually hackathons take applications from pre-established teams in which the team members are used to working with one another, the GIZ version accepted applications from individuals, who were then formed into teams.
With participants coming from 14 African countries spanning the entire continent, Lichtenthäler acknowledged that handling the cultural and linguistic diversity was certainly difficult, but ultimately rewarding, with new creative solutions emerging from the mixture of approaches and experience. The event had a “community building effect”, he says, and proved that gamification “is more than just building a serious game; it can actually contribute to social good.”