Sri Lanka, have we ran out of Ideas for Hackathons?

Image — https://www.deviantart.com/anuraag1993/art/Broken-Bulb-608127243

Organizing hackathons are getting abundant across the country since last couple of years. Sri Lanka has mostly moved away from traditional tech events and more getting along with the global trends (Eg — Hackathons, MakeAThons, Startup Weekends, Tech Launchpads…etc). To be honest, Ideamart is responsible (fully or partially) for making Hackathons a thing in Sri Lanka. Infusing, recommending and conducting such across the country. Since 2013, Ideamart have organized or been a part of nearly 50 hackathons. In average its 10 hackathons a year. Way to go!

Trend continued. Organizing teams got better. Organizing got better. Number of submissions went higher, permanent hackathons teams were formed, hackathon teams understood its important to have a person to pitch idea but finally we reach the BIG QUESTION, has the ideas got better qualitatively? I would say No! Since last 2 years we are seeing the same old idea been submitted over and over again. Rarely 1%-5% of the submissions would have a new idea or at least a part of it. Most of the ideas reminds me of red oceans bloody, muddy and everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie. Rarely in the blue ocean which is vast, imagination and little bit of research is what it takes to reach there. Judges and mentors too know by heart the questions they should ask from you.

Here are some of the commonly submitted ideas and if there is an actual implementation of in the market already.

  1. Reserve a bus ticket — Call 444 or visit busseat.lk.
  2. Check where the bus is — Only successful implementation is in Kandy and its done by Dialog. Its called, Sehesara. Even built an app and god knows why its not out there.
  3. Ride Sharing App — We have PickMe and Uber :)
  4. Fitness Trackers (IoT) — There are plenty of devices out there. Its a matter of Googling it :)
  5. Smart Bin to collect Garbage — This idea came at Hackadev first by Team Greeen Team. Currently few of major companies trying this out.
  6. E- Leaning Platform — We have Guru.lk. Siplo, Coursera, Udemy, Lynda… list goes on
  7. Parking Slot Reservation — We have park and pay, if you see a place to park in Colombo Tenaga has put some ticket dispensers
  8. See where another person is (with the users consent) — We have LocateMe, PinMap, WhatsApp, Google Maps
  9. Push advertisements using Geo-fence — People tried with IBeasons :)
  10. Natural Disaster Relief system — You will have to do some research and see of there are any tools they use at Disaster Management Center in Sri Lanka.
  11. Traffic Controlling System — ????
  12. Find where medicine is / Medicine at your doorstep — Mydoctor.lk and doc.lk does this already minus the finding medicine part at different pharmacies.

The list can go on but I have mentioned the most common ones. If I have missed any, comment below. Most of the teams submit these ideas without doing a proper feasibility study or at least a background research. That’s the saddest part. An existing idea is fine but at least with a tweak, find a gap and propose a solution with a practical approach.

Why do we get the same ideas over and over again?

  1. We all face the same problems on a daily basis and we want to solve those badly
  2. Our ability to imagine has been pruned.
  3. Hackathons fall alongside of assignments, submissions and exams
  4. Same idea has won at a different hackathon,so why not submit again
  5. Lets try the luck
  6. Less Googling in search of new ideas and information. Of course less researching and less exposure to experiences.
  7. We dwell the same problem silos

How can we get new ideas?

Image — quotefancy.com/quote/12339/Pablo-Picasso-Good-artists-copy-Great-artists-steal

Pablo Picasso said, “Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal”. Take smartphone industry as an example. Thanks to Jonathan Ive the whole smartphone industry change their product suite to look more “Lookalike Apple” and it doesnt imply Jonathan Ive too hasnt copied ;)

Once you absorb and idea you try to internalize it. Add flours of your own and it becomes your own. After all we all are not so original, we are a product of ideas and experiences we gained from outside. But from what we gathered more or less we try to make things original and justify its original. Anyways here are some things you can do / look for ideas to generate new ideas. Dont shamelessly copy paste the same idea, please.

  1. Go to https://www.kickstarter.com/ and what are the products people are trying to bring to the world
  2. See what these guys are up to https://makerfaire.com/
  3. Stay international. https://www.businessinsider.com/sai , http://www.bbc.com/future
  4. Read Google’s research blog https://ai.google/research
  5. Generate your own ideas and practically apply them. Maybe at your next hackathon

Some Killer areas to focus on your next hackathon idea

  1. Data Analytics
  2. Block chain
  3. Machine Leaning and AI

Seems hard to implement and dont have much of expertise? Go to Google Cloud Platform which give you access to various Google back end services which allow you to build, deploy and scale within minutes without much of prior experience https://cloud.google.com/products/. You can get started immediately.

You can get some code samples from https://codelabs.developers.google.com/

It need not to be a fully fledged AI product but imagine you introducing AI to wedding planning (already PlanMash have done it) or ML to your Alarm Snoozing patterns? Just start on the practical trends.

Hoping to see some new ideas with practical implementations at your next hackathon. All Green Lights.