This Irish hackathon wants to make remote working more accessible

27 Mar 2020525 Views

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From left: Sophie Benoit and Padraig Reidy. Image: What The Hack

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What The Hack’s latest hackathon, #HackRemote, aims to look at ways that remote working and education can be made more accessible.

A number of hackathons have been set up in recent weeks in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, with engineers, developers, scientists and other talented individuals eager to help with the issues that have sprung up as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Sophie Benoit, managing director of What The Hack, is planning an upcoming hackathon in Ireland in partnership with Thunkable. Entitled #HackRemote, the online hackathon is focused on finding solutions and tools to make remote working as accessible as possible.

The group said this could include finding solutions for the differently abled, work-life balance, parents or new uses for remote working technology.

Participants in #HackRemote will be expected to look at a variety of issues, such as technology and the ageing population; autism-friendly remote classrooms; disability awareness for remote interviews; reintegration for ex-prisoners; the difficulties blind people may experience while working remotely; and how to make social distancing more social.

The full list of themes for the event can be seen here.

Who’s going to be involved?

“We have a variety of sponsors joining us in creating this event. The largest is Thunkable, an app creation tool that will allow teams to finish the two days with a working app,” Benoit told Siliconrepublic.com.

“We’re also getting support from Buymie and participants from DCU and several of the large tech companies in the area.”

There will be judges and mentors from Grow Remote, Tech Summit, DCU, Dublin City Council, Trinity College Dublin, PwC and other companies. There will also be prizes for the winning team, which are focused on helping participants move forward with their solutions.

A group of young women sit together chatting at a table.

A team at What The Hack’s last hackathon, which focused on fast fashion. Image: What The Hack

“Most importantly, we have a growing group of participants from a variety of backgrounds,” Benoit said. “As with any event, it’s the variety of ideas and approaches that will allow the best and most innovative ideas to come to fruition.”

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This is the first remote hackathon that What The Hack has hosted, but Benoit remains confident that people will be able to collaborate at this online event.

“The biggest difference will be not being able to check in on the teams in person. The energy that comes from a room full of teams working to solve a problem is something that can’t be replicated,” she said.

“But we’ve developed several new approaches to create the same buzz through virtual classrooms, silly games and webinar talks. We’re hoping that we get a wide variety of people from tech, business, marketing or creative backgrounds. We never exclude anyone from attending an event, as who knows where the next big idea might come from?

“Because remote work is a topic that touches so many different areas of life, especially during quarantine, the wider variety of participants we can get, the better the ideas and solutions we can create.”

Changing remote working

Remote working has been a major topic of interest in recent weeks, as more people have moved to working and learning from home due to physical distancing and self-isolation measures.

“The coronavirus has highlighted the importance of working remotely and I think many practices are about to change and the number of remote positions will increase, even after the pandemic is over,” Benoit said.

If that’s the case, she believes that issues surrounding accessibility need to be solved, and there’s no better time to do that than right now.

#HackRemote will be a free event, as the team has acknowledged that it is a “difficult time for everyone”.  The event will be held through tools such as Zoom, LinkedIn and YouTube Live, as well as other platforms.

The hackathon will take place from 31 March to 1 April. If you would like to take part, you can sign up here.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com