Azerbaijan’s first Inclusivity Hackathon for people with disability

Azerbaijan’s first Inclusivity Hackathon reveals breakthrough software solutions for people with disability

Baku, 30 June 2019– An intensive 48-hour non-stop Inclusivity Hackathon, the first of its kind organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Azerbaijan, concludes today introducing new value-added technology solutions to break down barriers and expand access to quality living for people with disabilities.

Launched by the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Ms. Leyla Aliyeva on 28 June 2019, the Inclusivity Hackathon is part of the first Inclusivity National Campaign in Azerbaijan called UNLIMITEDand is organized in line with UNDP’s wider innovation and disability inclusion development strategy.

The Inclusivity Hackathon brought together over 30 industry experts, academia, technology pundits, national innovation labs and people with disabilities to work alongside 16 participating teams to empower them with advanced technology skills and accelerate coding and software development tools that can substantially improve the wellbeing of people with disabilities.

Working restlessly for the past 48 hours, these 16 teams developed a wide range of prototypes and open source code solutions to tackle challenges facing people with disabilities. Profiles of the prototypes presented at the closing ceremony of the Inclusivity Hackathon today were diverse and included platforms to modernise assistive devices to help people with vision and hearing impairments or speech disorders and applications to connect people with disabilities and volunteers willing to help them in different ways. Other ideas drew solutions to improve learning opportunities for people with varying abilities via gamification schemes, create mobile apps to measure the risk of autistic spectrum and offer job search websites and market place for craftsmen among people with disabilities.

The winning team of the inaugural Hackathon is Team Delta Squad and their project called “NeverSeize” -a desktop program designed to prevent multiple effects of epilepsy trigger.

Team Delta Squad is awarded 5,000 Azerbaijani manat towards bringing their product to market. Further to the Hackathon, the team will receive professional mentorship guidance for a period of three months following the award to operationalise the proposed desktop solution and turn it into a full-scale mobile and web solution.

The Inclusivity Hackathon is the first of a number of activities scheduled to take place in Azerbaijan this year in the framework of a large nationwide inclusivity campaign championed by the UNDP. This unparalleled experience will combine UNDP’s multi-disciplinary work around disability inclusion across a number of areas of involvement, including inclusive education through traditional arts and the creation of virtual labs to provide employment and learning support to people with disabilities, along with a number of other planned events.

By UNDP estimates, persons with disabilities are one of the largest minority groups in the world and represent over 15 per cent, or approximately 1.5 billion people of the world’s population. Eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in UNDP programme countries. In Azerbaijan, people with disabilities constitute 6% of the population or 620,000 people. They account for about 30% of 1.3 million pensioners in the country, while 60% of recipients of disability benefits are reported to be children under 18.

Recognising inclusive policies and programmes as sound investments in society the UNDP Country Office in Azerbaijan is fostering an ecosystem of innovation, growth of ideas and startup development as a way to diversify economy and to support the inclusion of some of the most vulnerable social groups in all spheres of its development work.

Going forward, the first Inclusivity Hackathon will serve as a ground for the work of the new next generation UNDP and its Accelerator Lab in Azerbaijan. In the coming months, the UNDP Accelerator Lab will focus on mapping opportunities for some of the ideas emerged in the Hackathon and connecting them with existing social innovation and accelerator institutions, as well as the private sector and possible investors in Azerbaijan and abroad.

In launching this inaugural initiative, UNDP has partnered with the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its largest student volunteer network called Bir Könüllü(One Volunteer) to provide organizational support to the Hackathon teams during two days of intensive group work. Azerbaijan’s prominent art space Yarat has opened its doors to host this first-time experience turning its state-of-the art premises of the Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the 20th-21stcentury into a modern tech-space to inspire the Hackathon teams to co-create and tackle social challenges.

UNDP extends gratitude to the entire team of mentors, juries and all the partners for their volunteer contribution to the success of the past two days, for the time and remarkable dedication they have committed to helping tech-savvy enthusiasts excel in coding and programming for a social cause.

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