The first Tunga hackathon: the TungaThon

By Kees Kranendonk

On 16 July 2021, Tunga reached a new milestone in its short history. Audiences worldwide could tune in for the presentations and award ceremony of the first Tunga hackathon. After two weeks of hard work, 25 teams of 2-4 developers proudly presented the fruits of their online collaborations. And at the end, everyone won.

The event was so fresh that, at the time, the competition did not have a name of its own. So this writer decided to seize his opportunity and dub it the TungaThon.

The hackathon challenge

Participating developers had to create a Minimum Viable Product from scratch. After that, the submissions were assessed by a team of judges on industry-standard criteria. For instance, idea and completion, implementation and system architecture, data structures and algorithms, code quality and documentation, design and usability, and presentation.

In line with Tunga’s mission, the hackathon was aimed at making social impact. All products somehow had to contribute to ‘Youth Education and Employment’. This is a topic that is even more urgent today. Daniel Afedra, talent manager at Tunga, helped organise and judge the TungaThon. From his home country Uganda, he explains that the current pandemic has caused all educational institutes, from university to primary level, to shut their doors. As a result, it is imperative to find IT solutions that allow students to continue their learning. From the perspective of a young African software developer, Daniel adds that the role and adoption of IT must be further promoted in African education and other sectors.

Many of us have had to get used to collaborating online. But the digital space is the natural habitat of Tunga. Teams from five African countries worked together online for the TungaThon. Participants were mostly junior developers, with a majority coming from outside of Tunga. In addition, an estimated 25% of them were female.

Benefits all around

The TungaThon offered the participants an opportunity to expand their experience with online teamwork. Where possible, junior developers were matched with seniors. This promotes the sharing of knowledge. Team members needed to work well across time zones to share their contributions. Just like in professional remote work. The brief was similar to that of real client assignments. And it resulted in products that the participants can include in their portfolio.

For Tunga, the competition helps to raise the skills level of the existing talent pool. It also has great promotional value. With the help of various social media channels, this single event increases Tunga’s visibility in a range of African countries. Meanwhile, Tunga attracts more and more quality developers. Consequently, these can satisfy the needs of more and more clients. It is great to witness Tunga’s mission of unleashing African tech talent in progress. And as Daniel says: “I feel it can only get better for Tunga.”

The TungaThon is an addition to the already comprehensive support that Tunga offers to its developers to up their skills and increase their chances of success on the remote labour market. Of course there is the Tunga Academy. This is an online platform with a range of free courses. Developers can also focus on required hard and soft skills through tailor-made Bootcamps. Additionally, Tunga organises online Developer Board meetings. That is to say, virtual meetups at which the devs role-play client situations. Next, there are Tunga Dev hours and webinars. And finally, with the hubs, the company provides physical spaces throughout Africa where developers can work in peace and leverage the free internet.

And the winners are…

But back to the event. The developer teams produced a variety of products. These covered data analysis tools, mobile and desktop apps and web applications. Some applications made use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The competition yielded a range of tools, including learning management systems, platforms for investors and start-ups, apps for school management and independent learning, timetable schedulers, learning hubs, job portals and more.

The best three systems won a monetary prize. Team Anchors finished at third place and Team 6th Hokage ended second. But Team Staunch ruled supreme. They won the first prize and came in first in the category of technical excellence. Their app VLearn aims to drive independent studying with AI-assisted software products. It is currently supported on the mobile platform and has five features: Generate Questions & Answers, Translate Languages, Memorise on the move, Fill in the Gaps and Identify Image. VLearn was lauded by the judges for its uniqueness, the quality of the code base, the out-of-the-box thinking and the excellent demo. Our congratulations go out to all contestants!

Daniel Afedra says the event was a success. Both for Tunga and the developers. The organisers received a lot of positive feedback from the African developer community. It is the plan to hold the competition every three months. Daniel is convinced that, going forward, the quality and impact of the event will further increase. This first TungaThon was a great start of a new tradition. And yet another driver of Tunga’s ambition to create more 21st century jobs for African youths.

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