Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Hackathons

Having graduated from a provincial university rather than an institute in the capital city, I saw and experienced first hand the difficulty of farming. Ironically, given the vast agricultural challenges and opportunities of the country, many if not most of my countrymen would rather work eight or more hours in the office than to get their hands dirty to produce food on the table, while the Filipino farmers who toil the land for more than those office hours get little to nothing for their effort; Pareto may be in hell for this.

Along came the agriculture-based hackathon hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) which started in 2012. From the last day of August to the first of September 2013, I participated on what would be my first hackathon, the second year of the Bigas Hackathon, popularly called Bigas2Hack, organized by IRRI and Smart Communications, and sponsored by (Darth Vader music anyone?) Microsoft Philippines.

Sure, my coding skills may be rusty and I have recently been specializing on infrastructure development, but more than the technical aspect, the passion to make technology work for food security in general and the farmer in particular is still there, and I'm fortunate to have met and have had the honor of having Ms. Nel Vergara, or more endearingly I call her 'Tita Nel', as my teammate. Below is our pitch for our project (you have no idea how cold it is on that stage, add to that the excitement and decreasing effect of caffeine, it's crazy!).

Our 2-person team is named HarBest earned the runner-up for the Most Innovative Bring-You-Own-Idea category with our project HarBest Deal (of which I have to write a separate article).

With the exhilarating feeling over the event, all I can think of is to dedicate this to God, to my sons Joshua Mari Francis and Faith Lawrence, to my partner in life through thick and thin Angelique, to my family and to all my friends who trust and believe in me.

It must also have been beginner's luck that on the side I got some freebies, or it must be a humbling revelation that I got a Nokia Lumia 820 Developer Phone Kit (of which I plan to write a review) as raffle prize from Microsoft and an opportunity to develop web application for cloud computing powered by Windows Azure. When I say humbling revelation, it's not like I will have to turn my back on free and open source technology and work exclusively on Windows and related Microsoft technology, better than that, I realized what the late Steve Jobs meant from around 1997: for everyone to win, it doesn't have to be that Microsoft should lose.

The Bigas2Hack is a pivotal moment for me and EDGEKIT Computer Systems, first, because it made me realize the power of ideas and passion, in this case, the idea of technology helping the agriculture sector in the Philippines is very close to my heart. Second, Bigas2Hack enabled EDGEKIT Computer Systems to harness the power of cloud computing, thanks to Microsoft's Windows Azure platform (no Darth Vader music anymore, Vivaldi's Four Season comes to mind). Third, through Bigas2Hack I met new friends from within IRRI and from various organizations and institutions practically nationwide. It has been an honor and pleasure hacking alongside them. The IRRI-hosted hackathon gives a hopeful sign for what technology does for the farmer and for food security. Lastly, attending the hackathon, throughout the thrill and enjoyment of event, I realized hackathon is a game worth playing for me, and in this case, the worthwhile ideas are indeed valuable. Overall, the whole 36 hours without sleep is well worth it.

This article's title said something about two hackathons and I mentioned only one, what's the second? It's the hackathon I was unable to attend due to graduate school, home and professional commitments. I feel depressed being unable to attend to this other socially relevant hackathon focused on charity.

Anyway, see you in the next hackathons.

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