Health-Tech Hackathon: Improving Digital Healthcare Infrastructure in Africa

The Health-Tech Hackathon was conceptualized as an opportunity for our AL for Infrastructure and AL for Health network members to add to their belts of skills with the support of mDoc and Microsoft – and so it did. The Hackathon was the first of its kind and has set a great standard for many to come. With 12 weeks of dedication and commitment from our end, from mDoc and Microsoft, and especially from our participants’ ends, an outstanding effort was met.

The first four weeks of the Hackathon were dedicated to training all of the participants to empower them with the basic skills in the cloud computing platform, Microsoft Azure, GiftHub, and many other valuable teachings. Thereafter, the groups had to choose a problem statement from the four that were provided and configure a solution for it with the support from the mentors provided.

Two teams out of 13 walked away triumphantly, with $5000 awarded to the winning team and $2500 to the team. Group 10, named “African Eagles”, was the winning team. It consisted of Maureen Irungu, Felihle Ncongwane, Princia Ishimwe, Paul Bulibabuti, and Martin Lubowa. All the teams were carefully selected to have a fair amount of AL for Infrastructure and AL for Health network members in them, all from varying regions of Africa and beyond. Team 10’s solution was for Problem Statement 3, which required them to create a USSD-based health education tool to nudge people toward wellness with patient-centered health content. Their solution was Lafiya, a UUSD platform for medical practitioners to share educational health messages with their patients. This tool is to facilitate access to reliable and affordable health information, fosters a sense of belonging, motivates, and triggers a strong sense of responsibility thus improving individuals’ health outcomes. For more insight into their solution, see their presentation here.

The runners-up were Group 1, which consisted of Amine Ouesleti, Aya Ben Saad, Youssef Ali, Ela Ben Saad, and Aamen Muharram. Their solution was in response to Problem Statement 1: “Integrate the QRISK®3-2018 risk calculator or Framingham risk calculator into mDoc’s digital health platform to predict a person’s risk of developing a heart attack or stroke over the next ten years.” They created High-Risk Assessments (HRAs) to recommend preventative care strategies to reduce the likelihood of chronic disease development. HRA is a tool that uses collected patients’ data and identifies potential risk factors that could lead to chronic disease. The data obtained from HRAs can help determine disease severity and when to initiate lifestyle modifications and preventive medical treatment. Read more about their solution here.

We asked some members of the winning teams to share more about their overall experiences and we received glowing remarks. Yousseff, team leader of Group 1, beams about having had a harmonious workflow and great collaboration with his team. He accredits the Hackathon to improving his and his team members’ abilities to form part of a team and contribute to it constructively. They found it challenging to choose and implement a suitable algorithm as the problem was open-ended and could’ve been approached in many ways. His takeaway from this experience is that ‘you do not need to have all the details to try’. Their team did not know all the details about healthcare, nor did they know how they can integrate their knowledge in coding and AI with the health sector. With an open mind and after doing sufficient research, they managed to create a high-quality health-based solution. This just reaffirms: ‘never hesitate to try new things’.

Aptly named, the ‘African Eagles’ are very deserving of their win. Their team leader, Maureen, shares that juggling the demands of the Hackathon and a busy academic semester was challenging on her end. However, the outcome notwithstanding, she believes that it was a fulfilling and valuable experience, and she would encourage others to apply to the next hackathon. Fellow teammate, Princia, shares that although parts of the process were challenging, it was important to her and the rest of the team to persevere. One of their most pressing challenges was debugging code errors because they would often spend more time debugging than coding. This only made their win even more rewarding. As someone who wishes to work in the technology industry, she enjoyed witnessing how technology can provide various solutions, even to problems that are unrelated to the industry. She too would recommend this experience to anyone who would consider applying.

AL for Infrastructure aims to be a network that provides its members with the necessary skills and opportunities that would empower them to be impactful leaders in their careers and in our continent. The Hackathon is yet another avenue through which we have been able to pursue that. It was a pleasure to have shared this experience with AL for Health and to enfranchise the respective network members with a multi-sectoral experience. We are very thankful to Microsoft and mDoc for entrusting our networks with their resources and support. We look forward to working with them again in the future.

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