BIAC Hackathon: Innovating in Cancun

Last week, the OECD – or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – held a Ministerial meeting on the Digital Economy in Cancun, Mexico. Ministers and high-level officials from almost 40 countries gathered with business leaders, civil society, labor and the Internet technical community to discuss innovation, growth, and social prosperity.

When planning for the Ministerial meeting began more than a year ago, it occurred to me that including a hackathon would be an exciting addition. These events offer policymakers and other stakeholders the unique opportunity to see first-hand the innovation, collaboration, and creativity driving the digital economy. Likewise, it provides young entrepreneurs with an experience to meet with senior government and industry leaders. So, AT&T joined with BIAC (Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD) and other companies to host the BIAC Hackathon.

Building on the theme of “Connected Communities, Connected Lives,” 170 coders between the ages of 18 and 29 worked through the night in a 24-hour push to create apps in the following categories: Cultural Heritage, Smart City, Social Inclusion, and Entrepreneurship. Participants came from Mexico, Canada, and Colombia, and, 29 of our young coders were women. In total, the 37 teams competed for $20,000 in cash and other prizes. After teams “pitched” their apps to the judging panel, we announced the following winners:

  1. Cultural Heritage: “Time Stamps” – an app designed to make studying history more immersive for teenagers.
  2. Smart City: “Nisi Vitae” – the app enables a user to provide their medical information automatically to emergency response personnel when calling for an ambulance.
  3. Social Inclusion: “VR-ehab” – this app converts remote physical rehabilitation into a game using an Android Virtual Reality environment and a hand movement detection system.
  4. Entrepreneurship: “Autonomi” – this app aims to increase security and independence for the visually impaired.

These four teams were recognized at the Ministerial Gala Dinner, during which “Nisi Vitae” was announced the Grand Prize winner by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and Mexico Minister of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo. In addition to the $2500 awarded to each category winning team, “Nisi Vitae” also won $10,000 and 4 months of mentoring by Angel Ventures, a venture capital firm headquartered in Mexico City.

We also presented Excellence Awards at the conclusion of the hackathon to teams that developed the best app using a specific technology or addressing an issue of interest to the sponsor.

BIAC_ATT Winners


AT&T Excellence Award: Team “Oil Collection,” comprised of students from the Universidad Politécnica Metropolitana de Hidalgo, received the AT&T Excellence Award for best use of the AT&T M2X API. The team was awarded $2,000 and 4 Nanodegree Scholarships from AT&T and Udacity for the development of an IoT-based solution that automates the collection of used cooking oil, which often pollutes local rivers and other waterways. The app features a sensor in the oil container that monitors the capacity of the container; when the container reaches 75% capacity, a message informs the business to schedule the oil collection.

“The Hackathon was a great learning experience for us. We had exciting days, with a lot of studying and sharing the enthusiasm of all competitors. We won’t forget this Hackathon, it will remind us something very special: we must never put limits on creativity,” said Michelle Baeza, “Oil Collection” team member.

I am proud to have been part of such an impactful event. I would like to thank everyone who joined and contributed to its success. A special thanks goes to the OECD and the Mexican Ministry of Economy for their support. I’d also like to acknowledge Ed Donahue of AT&T’s Developer team for running the hackathon operations on the ground, and the other members of our core organizing team – Oracle and Software Guru.

I remain in awe of the talent displayed by all of the participants. I can’t wait to see what other innovative solutions these young men and women will develop in the future.

I hope you’ll take a moment to watch this short video created by Oracle recapping the hackathon.