Hackathon in 4 States; my experience
Everyday we live is our story written…but how cool is it to know that the life you’re living right now is the story that will be told to inspire the next generation in the next 10–20 years. Do you ever think about your actions this way? I know I try to sometimes. Writing a story is always so much easier when you knew you were going to write the story before living the experience. Its almost as if you’re writing a fiction, a story that you can imagine or make up in your head and live it. Although, as we all know how reality works, there are a lot of things that we cannot predict or determine, just like how I crossed a river in Lekki just to get to Enugu or how I got to the love garden at Uyo, but the important thing is that for the better part of the story, we are holding the pen and I think that’s good enough.
I just concluded a project; JAN Hackathon. This was implemented as a thoughtful strategy to attract the right talent needed to solve certain challenges facing Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN). The plan was to work with a team and partners to make organizing a hackathon in 4 different states a little easier and this was what I did. The planning stage including the call for participants happened in two weeks and the hackathon was scheduled to hold in these four locations at different times to allow time for me to be present at all the locations. I am currently writing an article titled; Organizing a hackathon in 4 locations, more information about the nitty gritty on the organization of the hackathon will be dropped soon. I briefly detailed my experience in these events below.
Osun: Always a budding tech community
Organizing a hackathon in Osun was not really a big deal because I knew how things worked in OAU (my alma mater ). I had to make a few contact with some of the folks I know that are still students and we got to organizing. It is not news that there are a lot of talented folks in OAU. One thing I noticed was the support that they were ready to offer to one another; it was almost like a community hackathon.
When you’re doing something you love, 8 hours tend to seem like an hour. Time went so fast that it felt like it was too short. 7 teams participated in the hackathon while 5 teams finished up and pitched to the judges, who crowned a winner. I didn’t have much time to go around OAU or maybe I spent 5 years already in the school and wasn’t interested in going sight seeing, when I didn’t expect much to change from last year. Something the community of techies in OAU is really lacking is the presence of a physical hub-a comfortable place with constant light and internet. This really hampers the development process for techies and was one of the issues that was faced during the hackathon. You trust me to take time to do photo shoot sessions…lol.
From the time I was an undergraduate, it was a thing for techies in the OAU community to be closely knit and supportive of one another. From the times of ilab at the Whitehouse building to the times at the Alumni lab in Computer building. There is always throwing of shades, enough jokes and playing around but in a good proportion with enough overnights, learning, coffee and risky (if you know, you know).
Kaduna: Watch this space!
When I told some of the folks close to me that I was going to Kaduna to organize a hackathon, their panic faces were just priceless ;) Kaduna happened to be very peaceful and the people there were just unnecessarily nice. We received the most number of applications from Kaduna but we discovered that many of them were novices. The most striking thing was the interest level of those present; they were so much ready to learn and were supportive of one another. Although, the expertise level is generally low, the interest level is very high in contrast and I see many more talented folks coming from the North. The only lady that participated in the hackathon is the one in the first picture below; she is a wife and a mother of 3, picked up android about 6 months ago, and has worked on a couple of projects. She is the MVP in JAN Hackathon Kaduna.
It was my first time in Kaduna, so I took time to also visit some places in Kaduna. One of the places I visited was Colab. Colab prides itself to be the first hub in Kaduna, and the atmosphere there was warm and welcoming. The striking thing about Colab was the pricing; students could pay as low as N2000/month for an office space which comes with power and internet. If you’re in Kaduna and you need a place to work, you should check out Colab. Another place I visited was Kajuru castle, a beauty to behold. It had the serenity and class of a castle, the view is to die for and it had a few animals (like peacocks and crocodile) in the compound. I heard people go there on honeymoons, for weekend getaways, or to shoot movies/music videos. If you’re planning to get married soon, I just gave you an idea. Thank me later. :)
The experience in Kaduna was enlightening because I got to experience firsthand the northern culture and their attitude to technology. PS: They have the same drive and hunger for tech as their peers in other states, if not more. The religion and culture still has a hold on the drive of technology education and its acceptance in the community, but this event showed me that it is changing. We have more folks that are showing interests in technology, more folks interested in learning and becoming better, and more folks ready to change the world as world class developers.
Enugu: Upcoming hotspots for startups
Being an active member in the tech ecosystem gives me the opportunity to see a lot of job offers flying around for developers. One of the new waves that I noticed was the call for developers from Enugu. Enugu is becoming the new hot spot for startups. I cannot say the reason for this, it might be the low cost of living or the sanity as compared to living in a city like Lagos. On making the call for Android developers for the hackathon, we discovered along with the GDG lead that there are very few Android developers in UNN.
Most developers were web developers and the turn out for the hackathon at Enugu was low which in turn made us to doubt the experience at first. But by the end of the hackathon, we discovered that the participants were actually all bad-asses as their solutions stood out, their code was standard and their adherence to best practices was commendable.
The hackathon held at Roar Nigeria, a hub that’s only about a year old but has been making great strides. I took a tour around the hub and met some of the students that were building cool projects in the community. Roar Nigeria is more focused in the hardware space as most of the incubated startups were hardware-centered, including a delivery drone that is built and assembled in Nigeria by Nigerian students. I feel so excited when I see these things happening and I have to give kudos to Roar Nigeria, not just for the hardware escapades, but also because I learnt that all the Android developers that participated in the hackathon are products of the hub.
I did not have the time to go around Enugu as I arrived in Enugu for the hackathon a day after scheduled; I missed my flight. Yes! I did. How? Let’s just say a number of unfortunate events happened concurrently which slowed my roll. Some of the events were traffic jam on my street trapping me for a 40mins before I chose to hop out, forgetting my laptop bag in the Taxify ride (I was carrying 3 bags, so don’t judge me), looking for the Taxify ride, entering a bike with a failed braking system, entering another bike which took me through ‘rivers of water’ inside Agungi/Ikate because he was hiding from the Police and lastly, the manager of the flight that didn’t let me check in when I finally got to the airport. *sobs*
The experience in Enugu was different; I had never organized or attended a meetup or hackathon with so much quality despite such a low turnout. It made me understand that sometimes you don’t need more people; you need more quality people. The smaller number allowed for more flexibility like overnight, more food and drinks, and personalized support. Oyewale Ademola was present at the hackathon as a judge and also to support and advice the participants on best practices. It was an exciting experience seeing these students build awesome solutions. I got an inspiration for a write-up on my way back (you can read it here).
Uyo: The mafias of the dev community
When you talk about the ‘mafias’, you’ll definitely find them in Uyo. I call them mafias because many of the folks here do not take no for an answer. They have access to very little resources, but have chosen to make use of what they have to get what they want. The developers here do not have a lot of infrastructure to help them develop, which was why I was super excited to hear about the Start Innovation Hub at the Ibom e-library and the work that is being done there. The community there is quite supportive of themselves and they are getting better by the day.
Uyo was fun for me because I got to move around and see a lot of fun places. One of the places I went with some of my friends was the Ibeno beach. Although far, the place is really a beauty that matches none other I have experienced. If you are used to only the Lagos beach like me, then the Ibeno beach will redefine what a beach experience should be like. Other places I visited were the Tropicana and the Art Exhibition Center. Uyo is generally serene and beautiful. In terms of the cost of living, Uyo is a cheaper city to reside in than Lagos. If you ever go to Uyo, don’t forget to have a taste of their afang soup, it takes you to a new level in life and a deeper connection to your spirit man…lol.
Something I noticed about some of the developers in Uyo is that being a developer is a side hustle or one of their options, this could be because of their entrepreneurial nature, but I might be wrong. Uyo is a fast growing city with far less stress than Lagos which makes it very good for businesses starting up. One thing commendable is the distribution of skill set among the developers as there were a large number of android developers which could be nearly compared to the number of web developers. This may be largely due to the influence of the Start Innovation hub located at the Ibom elibrary.
Wrapping it up
The organization of this hackathon happened in 2 weeks and the hackathon was executed over the following 2 weeks. This was possible because I had an awesome team, folks that make things happen. Special thanks goes to the sponsors of the hackathon; Junior Achievement Nigeria and TechQuest, my JAN hackathon executioner team led by Samuel Adekunle and Majemu Olowo, the GDG leads in the hosting institutions; David Asamu, Nafiu Garba, Okey Nwagba and Nsikak Thompson, the hubs that provided spaces; Yusuf Bashir of Kaduna ICT Hub, Chinwe Okoli of Roar Nigeria and Hanson Johnson of Start Innovation Hub and my very supportive volunteers.
It is true what they say;
Talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not — Andela
We organized this hackathon in these 4 states to deliberately go out of the norm in finding a team of 2 that will work with the JAN team to build out the solution to JAN’s proposed challenges. Through the hackathon, we were exposed to many different ways to solve the problem and we have selected a team that will build the solution remotely. Each winning team (students) in each of the location got N50,000 and the overall winning team will build out the solution over a year with a N1.2Million cheque attached to it.
We distributed the opportunity and I think it is a good model to find skillful and capable hands across Nigeria and beyond to solve problems. A model that could be adopted when similar solutions are being sought.
Thank you for reading, and do clap if you think the reading was worth it. I’d be glad to answer any question you might have about the content present here , or offer assistance in executing the plans taken to ensure this hackathon was a success.
Thanks to Ojo Stephen for editing this article.