Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Georgia: Hackathon for Hi-Tech Solutions

Specialists develop innovative tools for eco-friendly journalism.
By IWPR Georgia
  • Beka Bajelidze, IWPR Caucasus Director mentors a team called Metaphor, which produced a short video highlighting environmental issues that affected Georgia in recent years. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Beka Bajelidze, IWPR Caucasus Director mentors a team called Metaphor, which produced a short video highlighting environmental issues that affected Georgia in recent years. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Participants of hackathon grabbing badges and t-shirts to attend seminars. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Participants of hackathon grabbing badges and t-shirts to attend seminars. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Hayk Asriyants, co-founder of Tbilisi Startup Bureau introduces the agenda and rules of the event in the conference hall of the National Astrophysical Observatory of Georgia. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Hayk Asriyants, co-founder of Tbilisi Startup Bureau introduces the agenda and rules of the event in the conference hall of the National Astrophysical Observatory of Georgia. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Ani Pochkhua and Giorgi Tsirekidze, young graduates, who specialize in software development and media production deliver a presentation of their app prototype that compares land cover in various timeframes affected by the war in August 2008. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Ani Pochkhua and Giorgi Tsirekidze, young graduates, who specialize in software development and media production deliver a presentation of their app prototype that compares land cover in various timeframes affected by the war in August 2008. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Nino Macharashvili, IWPR mentor and director ForSet taking a short break after intensive discussions with teams that decided to hack IWPR Challenges. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Nino Macharashvili, IWPR mentor and director ForSet taking a short break after intensive discussions with teams that decided to hack IWPR Challenges. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Guri Koiava and Hayk Asriyants, co-founders of Tbilisi Startup Bureau discussing details for the next day of the hackathon. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Guri Koiava and Hayk Asriyants, co-founders of Tbilisi Startup Bureau discussing details for the next day of the hackathon. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Members of jury from left to right: Nana Dikhaminjia, Professor at Ilia State University, Beka Bajelidze, IWPR Caucasus Director, Sandro Asatiani, Director and Co-founder of ICT lab and Training Centre GeoLab, Kakha Magradze, Senior Partner at Gepra. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Members of jury from left to right: Nana Dikhaminjia, Professor at Ilia State University, Beka Bajelidze, IWPR Caucasus Director, Sandro Asatiani, Director and Co-founder of ICT lab and Training Centre GeoLab, Kakha Magradze, Senior Partner at Gepra. (Photo: Iliauni)
  • Hayk Asriyants, co-founder of Tbilisi Startup Bureau handing over the prize to the winners of the IWPR challenge hackathon Otar Mamestsarashvili and Merab Kutalia. (Photo: Iliauni)
    Hayk Asriyants, co-founder of Tbilisi Startup Bureau handing over the prize to the winners of the IWPR challenge hackathon Otar Mamestsarashvili and Merab Kutalia. (Photo: Iliauni)

A three-day hackathon organised by IWPR and the Tbilisi Startup Bureau saw three young teams explore how innovative technology can be used to explore critical environmental issues facing Georgia.

Hosted by Ilia State University and held at Georgia’s Astrophysical Observatory in the mountain resort of Abastumani, teams worked on challenges including the long-term effects of the 2008 war with Russia and early-warning systems for future crises.

One group worked on designing tools to help journalists compare and analyse the environmental impact of mining, natural disasters and tourism on land through multimedia. Another built an information sourcing tool so citizens could contribute to the early detection, verification and tracking of wildfires, landslides, floods and other crises.

In addition, participants demonstrated how they showed how NASA satellite datasets could be utilised to explore changes in land and settlement as a result of the 2008 war.

Before teams decided which challenges to undertake for the hackathon, IWPR mentors updated the participants with the background information, sources and tools they needed to develop their prototype applications.

“Participants were informed about the areas of IWPR’s work: the issues of displaced populations, natural and human-caused disasters, citizen journalism,” said Tbilisi Startup Bureau co-founder Hayk Asriyants. “Partnering with IWPR was a great opportunity and the most logical thing to do.”

Data Patatishvili is a young visual artist who led one of the three teams. He produced a short video using creative visual effects to highlight the effect of pollution, floods and landslides on Georgia in recent years.

“The main reason we participated in this challenge is our intention to project people’s attitudes towards the environment,” Patatishvili said. “During the hackathon we heard some brilliant ideas that proposed specific solutions for humanity’s good. This was inspirational and then [through the video] we tried to visualise and verbalise our attitudes and perceptions.”

Communications specialist Kakha Magradze was one of the team mentors.

“For me, any effort directed towards the development of education and science in our country and towards support of young generation is essentially, important and necessary,” he said. “Accurate and tailored communication with target groups and stakeholders is the most effective way for risk prevention.”

The winning team developed Spot that Fire, a crowdsourcing app that combines satellite datasets and user input to help with early reporting of natural disasters.

“I think our app is going to change the way people are informed about imminent catastrophes,” said software developer Otar Mamestsarashvili. “It'll be easer to inform large numbers of citizens with this app, it'll also process geographic data in real-time to provide the latest updates.”

Nino Macharashvili, the co-founder and director of ForSet, a Tbilisi-based creative communications enterprise, mentored the winning team. 

“The event helped establish important connections over the hackathon days and some of them will turn into new projects and impactful cooperation in the near future,” she said. 

“These projects have the potential to become important assets for the media… Creating long-lasting impact through technology takes time and hard work, but consistent support for such initiatives will benefit media and society in general in the long run.”

One team will now get the chance to win a 3,000-5000 euro IWPR grant and participate in a regional workshop with other trainees from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

This publication was prepared under the "Giving Voice, Driving Change - from the Borderland to the Steppes Project" implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway.