When the crisis hits, there's no time to hesitate. You've got to seize every opportunity and seek allies to overcome the challenges. That’s how Coronathon – the first ever virtual hackathon in Montenegro was pulled together within a matter of just a couple days. Relying on our digital transformation aptitude, UNDP stepped up to unlock the innovation potential and enable the community response to come to the fore. We handed over the baton to the citizens to come up with tech solutions that can help the country tackle the pandemic and its aftermath.

Partners rushed to our support and a broad coalition was swiftly formed with UNDP at the helm: government counterparts – Ministry of Science and Ministry of Culture; digital community, civil society and private sector – Alicorn, Dev Club, Digitalizuj.me, Mtel Digital Factory, Science-Technology Park, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre “Technopolis”; together with the media: TV Vijesti and news portal Vijesti, National Broadcaster – Radio-Television of Montenegro (RTCG), Portal Analitika and CDM.

What a powerful message of solidarity! All these institutions, companies, organisations came together as one and joined hands with the citizens, as if saying: We are in this together and together we will overcome the pandemic!  

With the touch of a magic wand, the call was published on 8 April, some two weeks after the first cases of coronavirus infection were registered in Montenegro. The competition was canvassing for ideas that can help:

·         Save lives and protect public health

·         Accelerate recovery

·         Ensure sustainable future

In parallel, the criteria for proposals was that they safeguard human rights and protect vulnerable groups.

The results were staggering:

·         Citizens submitted more than 100 ideas (in only 12 days)!

·         A prize pool of 13,000 euros was made available.

·         We gathered more than 30 mentors – experts from all walks of life: tech geeks, developers and engineers, doctors, scientists, artists, designers, architects, economists, psychologists, marketing strategists, communications gurus, human rights activists, gender specialists…

·         The best 15 solutions made it to the finals – where they were working for 48 hours with the help of mentors to perfect their proposals and prepare the pitch.

·         The high-level jury of 15 members (Our own Dragons’ den) included two ministers, UNDP Resident Representative, US ambassador, deputy head of the Institute for Public Health, directors of private companies and innovation hubs, delegates of all partners and experts in the field.

·         Through a dynamic and perfectly organised livestream, the teams’ pitches were broadcasted to wider public, while the jury was voting at the same time.

·         The top 3 teams received a prize of € 5, 3 and 2k respectively, while three more teams were recognised and awarded with € 1k each.

·         Continued support will be available to the winners, including through mentoring, technical expertise and further implementation of the solution until it’s up and running, i.e. until we turn it into practice.

·         Further assistance to all finalists and contestants – in visibility, outreach and networking, so that their ideas reach potential investors and find ways to be turned into action.

And the winners are (well, everyone had their fair share of success, but some took the prize):

1.       You Learn: The dream team formed by Tatijana and Aleksandar Dlabač (who happen to be husband and wife, engineers and university professors!) created a platform for interactive educational content and developmental games, as well as online testing. If you are looking how to entertain your kid or pupil, while facilitating their learning – this is the place to be, the so-called YouTube for Learning.

2.       Trguj.me (meaning Buy.me): This online shop and virtual marketplace is described by the authors as “Montenegrin Amazon”. Its allure lies in promotion of domestic brands and local produce, linking supply with demand, with the potential to boost the economy during and after the pandemic. Plus, it has a feature of automatized digital marketing. The team members are: Tijana Soković, Vesna Ivanović, Sanja Lazić, Marina Radunović i Ivan Radunović.

3.       AB+: A unique platform linking blood donors with the transfusion system, providing easily accessible data and exchange of information on which blood type is in demand and where the donors can provide it. The app includes an emergency alert to donors and could help bridge the gap, and tackle the shortage of certain blood types. The team members are: Stefan Fuštar, Danijela Marković, Miljan Marković i Vuk Đuranović.

The additional three awards for the 4th,5th and 6th ranking solutions went to teams: Psihoteka – psychosocial support app; Parapet – a platform connecting freelancers and service providers with potential customers; and Respira – production of mechanic respirators.

Though the competition is finished, we are just starting. The hackathon finals mark the beginning of the next chapter – where we will work on developing and perfecting the solutions so they could reach their final users.

Last, but not the least – we are cooking more digital solutions to serve the country and the people, so stay tuned! 

The winning team created an educational gaming platform for kids, parents and teachers

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