Developer turns passion project to increase access to mental health support into reality, and wins.
72 hours, hundreds of developers, one mission: To design a digital solution to help South Africans.
This is what took place in early August when MTN Business hosted their second ever virtual hackathon. Individuals or team competitors comprising App Academy graduates, tech students and novice developers hacked away to develop a solution to address a socially relevant challenge in South Africa.
Last week saw 14 winners announced at the annual MTN Business App of the Year Awards, with the Best Hackathon Solution being awarded to SiSa, an app to increase mental health literacy in any language while offering options of support for all and to all.
According to Claudia Mabuza, who was inspired to create the SiSa app after her very own mental health challenges during her studies, South Africa carries a huge burden of mental illnesses with the most prevalent being anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, mood disorders and depression. People with mental health conditions often face neglect as well as stigma and discrimination, especially from family given our cultural many contexts.
“This win is as much for us as it is for everyone. It is one of many future steps towards the South Africa we dream to create. From the start, we were unwavering in our mission to bring a uniquely South African mental health solution, psychological empowerment in the form of SiSa, to the nation,” says Claudia Mabuza, a Full Stack developer & WeThinkCode Alumni. “SiSa is a massive dream for a group of young adults who are navigating these difficult times with you”.
Mabuza says she had an amazing, authentic team for this mission, including Franck Tamala, a Computer Science student and Husain Mamoogee, a bright and ambitious Engineering student. Making up the rest of the team are Lindokuhle Mkhize, who is studying business as well as Data Science and Mfundo Cele, a talented freelance digital marketer and WeThinkCode student.
Category sponsor for Best Hack Solution this year is 4th Industrial Revolution Incubator (4IRI), a leading incubation ecosystem that develops and empowers SMEs to tackle an ever-disruptive future.
“We provide key talent with an enabling ecosystem and the opportunity to start up and develop new SME business. Our overriding aim is to drive economic growth opportunities in priority sectors as enabled by the 4th Industrial revolution,” says Clive Naidoo, Marketing Manager at 4IRI.
“The benefits of digital solutions created to address socially relevant challenges in South Africa are endless. Whether it’s a solution to a pandemic related issue, a new way to solve a health challenge, a modern learning platform or a unique digital approach to tackle a service delivery problem, locally developed apps will continue to improve our everyday lives,” he says.
“We are so proud to be sponsoring this important category, recognising true homegrown app development talent where it really starts. Congratulations to the SiSa team for this solution to a critical and growing social need in South Africa”.
Asked about why SiSa was developed, Mabuza says that even before Covid-19, it has been a challenging time with a large majority of the South African population struggling financially.
“The barriers to access, entry and interest have exacerbated a myriad of problems related to dysfunctional habits around alcohol, work, interpersonal violence and personal relations in general.
Members of our team have seen loved ones suffer silently or get chastised or ridiculed for expressing their battle with Mental Health,” she says. “It has been tough to find resources for self-development or a dedicated and welcoming space for these conversations. We identified issues that lie in our many cultural contexts, our current health system’s challenges, and the disparity between demand and need. And we are determined to be part of the solution”.
This year saw an unparalleled 1 274 entries into these awards, with 218 of these being entries into this category from the hackathon.
Another highlight from the awards was the announcement of the overall MTN Business App of the Year winner, which went to Ambani Africa, with developer Mukundi Lambani walking away with R 1 million in prize money.
For ten years running, the MTN Business App of the Year awards has provided a platform that celebrates local talent, rewards out-of-the-box thinking and continues to enable new technology start-ups to build innovative applications.
More about The Fourth Industrial Revolution Incubation
Fourth Industrial Revolution Incubator is strategically designed to enable the creation of Small and Medium Sized business in the tech space through incubation and supporting entrepreneurs. Our incubation model offers on the job training and ongoing business support. 4IRI creates and enables start-up businesses in key industries that will power the 4th industrial revolution. By fostering the capability and capacity for the future industry needs we create the potential for meaningful economic inclusion, powerful job creation and the use of the exceptional local talent that South Africa has to offer the world. 4IRI offers technical support for R&D, funding facilitation and assistance with market access.
For more information, go to https://4iri.co.za/.