The Cool Hacks, a team of three developers, scooped the top prize at the recent mental health hackathon hosted by the technology non-profit organisation, Empire Partner Foundation (EPF).

Team members, 35-year-old Placide Ebongue, 35-year-old Nomfundo Cele and 25-year-old Senzo Ndlovu, developed an app, SMILE, over two days at the hackathon in an effort to tackle the growing problem of mental health in SA.

The SMILE app uses machine learning technology to mitigate mental health in the workplace by focusing on anxiety, stress, and mood.

For their efforts, Cool Hacks collected R8 000 of the total R30 000 cash prize for the hackathon.

Termiite, which came second took home R5 000 and the third winning team, Mindful Techs, pocketed R3 000.

As part of the competition, developers were tasked with developing tech innovative solutions that help ordinary people deal with mental health issues.

EPF together with WIB Group hosted the hackathon during a time when a significant number of people across South Africa have been dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group says since April 2020, depression and anxiety in the country reached record highs.

EPF, which has been redefining the provision of public sector services through smart solutions, says it hosted the hackathon to allow young African developers to develop real-world solutions.

The foundation is now the nerve centre for the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in actively seeking digital solutions for communities across South Africa.

SALGA and EPF recently sealed a multi-year deal, which will see the two share resources and expertise in seeking life-saving solutions for socio-economic challenges.

EPF says by leveraging digital technology and partnering with other entities in its ecosystem, it can unlock innovative business models that can make basic services more affordable and more reliable in communities.

“In order to propel this advocacy of ‘Digital Citizenship’, monthly hackathons are held to develop software solutions which address the 10 identified key challenges,” says Matshidiso Bodibe, head of Empire Partner Foundation.

Winning teams from our hackathons are given an opportunity to build a business around the solutions they have designed. The incubation hub program will last between 6-12 months depending on the growth of the business.”

The winning team at the mental health hackathon, Cool Hacks, welcomed the opportunity to work with EPF to create solutions for social good.

“At this moment, we are overwhelmed by gratitude to Empire Partner Foundation, and WIB, thank you,” read the Cool Hacks statement.

“To everybody who has a vision, write it down, pursue it because it is not about what you have but how you believe in your vision.

“We have big plans for the SMILE app, we are taking it out to the market in this quarter of 2021, we will scale the business, and we are breaking boundaries, and taking over.

“The app has diverse languages, to facilitate usage by a wide range of people, even beyond our SA border.”

Developers at the Hackathon
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