Building the 1st Virtual Reality community of (WASH) problem solvers

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Virtual Reality Hackathon Maputo
Video credit: BoP Innovation Center


One of the winning teams of the VR hackathon
Video credit: BoP Innovation Center

BoP Innovation Center used the learnings from our VIA Water project "Virtual Latrines" to inspire young entrepreneurs in Maputo to use Virtual Reality technology to solve other social and environmental problems in their communities.

From 20th until 22nd April 2018, the very first edition of the Virtual Reality Hackathon took place in Mozambique. This was part of the larger AR/VR Africa Hackathon (http://arvrafrica.com/), an event sponsored by Facebook, Unity and GitHub. The Hackathon aims to introduce this disruptive technology to the general public, and showcase in which ways it can be applied, to solve problems in the areas of Education, Healthcare, the Environment and Social Justice.

The event was organized by BoP Innovation Center and ideIaLab and took place at Orange Corners Maputo. We were thrilled to have 30 participants including students and young professionals from different backgrounds such as NGOs, private sector, start-ups and tech development communities. The participants were divided in 7 teams and went through a 48-hours design sprint to develop a variety of solutions, that were presented after. This diverse pool of know-how contributed to the success of the event.

Watch a video of the event here: https://youtu.be/0bzC8G8HIZw

On the first day of the event the teams were aligned with the overall purpose of the event and immersed themselves into the VR technology and applications, through live streams of expert talks from Google and Unity. Saturday was all about ideation and rapid prototyping in the 7 teams to validate some of the ideas. On Sunday, the final day of the event, each team presented a 3 minutes pitch of the idea to a jury composed by representatives from ideiaLab, BoP Innovation Centre, FX Studio, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Maputo. From that pitch, 3 winning teams were selected. The third place went to the Tech Lovers team that developed a VR solution that brings the school environment to children who are unable to attend to school. In second place, the Justice League team presented a virtual chemistry lab. The winner of the event was team KidzKare that developed a VR game that reduces anxiety of children going through Paediatric Care as they get to “transported” to a world in which they receive superpowers when they receive an injection from their nurse. The honourable mention goes to team Casa Minha that leveraged the VR technology to engage with low-income communities and in this way increase the demand for affordable housing solutions.

The energy and feedback of the event could not have been better. By tinkering with the VR technology and searching for specific technology use cases, the participants and organizers have increased their confidence that VR is not just a technology for the future or for developed economies. Instead, it can already contribute to solving current problems in Mozambique, as demonstrated by the ideas that the teams came up with. BoP Innovation Center and ideIalab will continue to build the VR community in Mozambique and support the winners of the hackathon to turn their VR ideas into reality.

If you are interested to take part in this exciting journey or if you are looking for VR solutions yourself, please contact Gerwin Jansen (g.jansen@bopinc.org).

Dick Bouman's picture

Great to see the uptake of the VR idea in the creation of a real community. Hope that other VIA Water members get inspired to use this new way to visualise the (imagined) world around us.