A unique policy hackathon kicks off in New Delhi

Participants will create relevant and applicable digital solutions to challenges that stand in the way of better government and will be judged on quality, innovative vision, practical application and scalability

PolicyHack - EPoD pic

NEW DELHI, April 18: PolicyHack, one of India’s first policy hackathons, is under way in the city and is being hosted by Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) based at Harvard University and Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) LEAD, in partnership with the American Center and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The hackathon has brought together some of India’s top developers with policymakers and representatives from academia to create a more effective, efficient, and transparent government. Uniting experts at the nexus of policy and technology, PolicyHack aims to use data to create innovative digital solutions to pressing program and policy challenges in the country. Developers present here have the great opportunity to network with policy partners and non-profit organisations. People from policy and technology spheres are present here to mentor these developers and a four-judge panel will assess each proposal on the quality of the solution, its innovative vision as well as its practical application and scalability tomorrow. The developers have been given five policy track problems for which, using data, they will be creating digital solutions that are immediately relevant and applicable to the challenges that stand in the way of better government. Briefly, they are expected to do one/more of the following: • Build a platform/tool that facilitates job placement and retention in a way that meets job seekers’ needs and is attractive to potential employers. The Policy Partner for this is DDU-GKY Skills Division, Ministry of Rural Development • Create a tool by which parents and public officials can understand how educational institutions perform in their area and put pressure on education officials to improve the system, partnering with the Central Square Foundation • Build a tool to enable the Delhi Government to identify and fight corruption in the water tanker system; identify instances of waterway pollution by industries and domiciles sending untreated effluents and garbage into the Yamuna River; pinpoint and address inefficiencies in the current water delivery and sewage system; and make information available to the public and media to increasingly hold officials accountable to the public for improved water management. The Policy Partner for this is the Delhi Dialogue Commission, Government of Delhi • Create a system that can help the Department of Consumer Affairs seamlessly connect to the citizens to identify fake or counterfeit products, address complaints, and track progress on dealing with problems etc, for which the Policy Partner is the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs The developers can work on any topic of their choosing related to a policy or implementation problem in India. Some suggested topic areas that developers could explore are women’s safety, urban air pollution, or integrated monitoring of rural development schemes. Teams working under the open track will have to clearly define their chosen topic as a problem statement. Speaking at the inaugural, Katherine A. Caro – Cultural Attaché for Education and Exchanges at the Embassy of the United States of America said the data that is available online on the various websites can be found after 40 or 50 clicks. “On other side there are hundred thousands of coders and engineers in India and then there is a problem of transparency to provide the data with a user-friendly access. We need to connect data and coders with existing problems.” Selection criteria Ravi Suhag, Tech Consultant at the Evidence For Policy Design (EPoD), told BW Smart Cities that the registration process had started a month ago when interested developers were asked to submit their basic profiles, links to their project websites and blogs along with their GitHub profiles. (GitHub is the largest code host on the planet with over 15.4 million repositories and powerful tools). “We went through there coding quality and aesthetic factors and filtered down the applicants. We had received more than 300 applications and have selected 100 of them for the hackathon.” Results will be declared tomorrow evening, after presentations made by participants following 24 hours of designing solutions. During the event developers will also have opportunity to network with policy partners and not-for-profit organisations. Mentors are available throughout the hackathon, from a range of backgrounds, including policy and technology spheres, to help teams think through their solutions. The four-judge panel will assess each proposal on the quality of the solution, its innovative vision as well as its practical application and scalability. The judges are Professor Rohini Pande, Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and Director, Evidence for Policy Design; A. Santhosh Mathew, Joint Secretary, Skills/IT Division, Ministry of Rural Development; Ajey Gore, Founder, Codelgnitioin and Rukmini Shrinivasan, National Data Editor, The Hindu. The judges will select one grand prize across all policy tracks. The winning team will have the opportunity to bring their proposal to reality through a two month incubation period, where they will work with EPoD India officers to improve on the design and implementation strategy of their solution. If requested, office space in Delhi will be made available at the EPoD India office. The group will then be flown to Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA to work for one week and present their solution to an audience of policy experts at the Harvard Kennedy School and receive feedback and advice. Finally, the group will return to India to present their improved solution to the respective policy partner as an opportunity to develop a long-term collaboration. In addition, a cash prize of Rs 10,000 will go to the winning teams from each of the remaining policy tracks (not including the grand prize winner).