Hackathons: Corporate Social Investment or antithetical to innovation and empowerment?

Going digital: Hackathons do not always help software developers
Going digital: Hackathons do not always help software developers

Since April 2018, when His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi took office and declared that Botswana has to digitally transform to survive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), we have seen many initiatives aimed at developing young Batswana to grow the technology industry.

One of the more popular forms of initiative has been the Hackathon. This article therefore examines whether this approach as chosen by Government, parastatals and large corporates, does in fact do what it intends to do or is counterproductive to the efforts and initiatives as espoused and intended by President Masisi in empowering and growing young Batswana in technology.

As technology specialists and entrepreneurs, we entered 2021 with quiet hope and confidence. This was in large part a result of the hope that, as COVID-19 permanently altered business models and how institutions worked in 2020, a new dawn in our industry would emerge this year as companies and government are forced to be innovative in how they work and survive. This hope was quickly dashed in the first productive week of the year as Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), the state-owned enterprise tasked with fostering innovation in Botswana, and a large corporate financial institution, announced Hackathons to be hosted in quick succession early in the year. Why did these announcements cause widespread condemnation in the industry though their hosts probably assumed they would be welcomed as excellent developmental and empowerment efforts in line with the government transformation strategy?

Editor's Comment
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