November 13, 2020

SEAD Health Hackathon: One Year Later

Last September we held our first ever Health Hackathon at Strathmore University in Nairobi. The event was filled with inspiration and collaboration, and today we update you on where the winners are now. A year later, we remain proud of the hard work of all the participants and sponsors of our Hackathon and continue to cheer for their success!

SEAD Health Hackathon:  One Year Later 

Innovations in Healthcare convenes dozens of dynamic meetings each year with diverse stakeholders around the world. And while these workshops, conferences and meetings are exciting when they are happening, what we are really proud of is what happens after everyone goes home.  Last year’s SEAD Health Hackathon is no exception.

Our Health Hackathon, which took place one year ago -- September 18-19, 2015 -- at Strathmore University in Nairobi, was one of the most ambitious gatherings we have ever attempted outside of our SEAD Summits and Annual Forums.  The vision was this: bring together talented people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines in East Africa and ask them to work in teams to design solutions for some of the most pressing health challenges in the region.  Specifically, we were looking for solutions in three main areas:

  • Increasing Access to Healthcare
  • Managing Non-Communicable Diseases
  • Improving Maternal and Child Health.  

We selected 102 participants in late August 2015 from a pool of 280 applicants.  Participants – from fields as varied as health, technology and entrepreneurship – formed 20 teams.  At a pre-event on September 15th, participants gained a deeper understanding of our three focus areas through presentations made by representatives from corporate sponsor organizations. These insights allowed them to innovate based on real world market and customer challenges. Corporate sponsors included: BD, Merck, AHTI, and Philips, and Google Developers Launchpad.

During the hackathon event, the 20 teams worked together and with mentors to refine their ideas, develop a business case and write code for their various applications. Following several rounds of practicing their pitches, teams presented their innovative ideas on the last day of the Hackathon to a panel of five judges.  Cash prizes were awarded to four teams which were also eligible to receive structured mentorship support from October through February. The mentorship support was provided in collaboration with iBiz Africa that is based out of Strathmore University.

Winners included:

The overall prize ($3,000), sponsored by BD as well the technology prize, sponsored by Google Developer Launchpad ($500) went to Teebu, a team formed at the Hackathon, which created an integrated information management system that addresses limited access to care for HIV patients through the private sector. The solution provides a QR code that acts as a unique patient identifier.  The QR code is printed on a business card which when scanned allows the provider to access patient records through a web or mobile interface and continue care.  During its pitch, this team had printed cards with QR code and had a live demo on the mobile and web interfaces.  Since winning, Teebu has gone on to collaborate with the Think Place Foundation to expand their goals.

The prize for the “increasing access to healthcare” award, sponsored by Philips ($1,500), went to Noton Lab, an existing team that added on new members they met through the Hackathon. This team created a prototype of a respiratory rate measurement device that can be used at home and by community health workers and provides triage for conditions such as pneumonia and asthma, helping early referral to care. The team had a live demo of their prototype device and the web application that interfaces with the device to provide a history of measurements made. Since winning, the team was selected for 6 months of facilitated training in early 2016 through the Dubai 100 Pre-Accelerator programme.

The prize for managing non-communicable diseases, sponsored by Merck ($1,500) went to Pin Afya, a new team formed at the Hackathon.  Pin Afya created an integrated platform for the management of diabetes with the aim of empowering patients to be involved in their care and improve adherence to treatment. The platform provides information on diabetes care and management to patients and caregivers and allows patients to enter and their data (e.g. blood sugar levels) with health providers.  Since winning, the team plans to pilot their solution with the Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre. Some of the team members are also using the knowledge gained during the post-hackathon incubation support to work on new ventures in the health technology space.

The prize forimproving maternal child health, sponsored by the AHTI ($1,500) went to Toto Voice, a module developed by an existing venture (Toto Health) that participated in the Hackathon.  During the Hackathon, they expanded their offering to include voice messages that provide information and alert to mothers during pregnancy and in the first 5 years of their child’s life.  By adding these features, the organization sought to expand their reach to illiterate and visually impaired women. Since winning, the team used their prize money to pilot this module in Kenya’s North Eastern province, which is a hard to reach semi-arid area of the country.  They have also participated in the new digital health accelerator created by Hackathon sponsor Merck.

Our Hackathon, however, was not just about the winners, but about all participants and the connections and knowledge they gained from the event.  Merck, for example, used some of the learnings from our event in launching their digitial health accelerator in Nairobi. Our keynote speaker, Michael Macharia, CEO of Seven Seas Technology, shared with participants during the event about the company’s passion in investing in the healthcare value chain and subseuqntly launched innovation labs within his organization that include a focus on healthcare. The Hackathon is filled with other stories of inspiration and collaboration as well, including a team of Ethiopian entrepreneurs who having started Ethiopia’s first ambulance and emergency training provider participated in the Hackathon to explore how new technology solutions could enhance their services.  One of the teams that received an honorable mention from the judges panel was “Team Unicorn”. This six member team went on to win the Break Poverty hackathon  that was co-hosted by iHub that was one of  the institutional partners of the SEAD Hackathon.

To get a fuller flavor of the event last year, check out the Hackathon video, and see how the MC for the event, Simeon Oriko “storified” it.