Equity Group
Equity Group CEO, Dr James Mwangi.

Equity Group, in partnership with Microsoft, has launched a virtual hackathon for students from the University of Nairobi and Meru University of Science and Technology.

The Hackathon, which opened for registration on February 4, saw a total of 663 students from the two universities registered to be among the 100 shortlisted participants to take part as innovators.

The Hackathon is the first of its kind to be run by the Group and seeks to drive innovation and crowdsource solutions to address business problems and social issues.

Students from the two universities will have an opportunity to take part in a competitive event and collaborate to build proofs of concept and minimum viable products for a pre-defined problem.

Equity Group CEO, Dr James Mwangi, said the Group seeks to explore the use of Hackathons as a tool to drive the discovery of new technologies and process improvement solutions for the regional bank.

“The Hackathon promises to be a truly transformational experience for both universities and our institution, as it will enable us to create products and offerings that are beneficial to our people across the markets we operate in, while at the same time offering the students an opportunity to learn and apply their skills to solve business challenges,” said Dr Mwangi.

Microsoft Kenya Country Manager Kendi Ntwiga noted that the country stands a chance to be a global player in innovations through a collaborative effort on the part of university and industry linkage.

“Uncertain times call for solutions that are sustainable; solutions that bridge the gaps and challenges that Africa faces. With an average age of 19.6 in Kenya, our youth have the opportunity to engage and be part of the solution,” she said.

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The University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor, Prof Stephen Kiama said, “The University of Nairobi and Meru University of Science and Technology endeavour to develop closer ties with the industry, such as the banking and ICT industries, to support our students acquire practical skills, beyond what universities can offer from a learning environment.”

Further, Meru University of Science and Technology Vice-Chancellor, Prof Romanus Odhiambo added, “Universities play a pivotal role in accelerating knowledge and driving research and innovation. This collaboration is bringing together like-minded organizations to innovate and create lasting change through technology. We are very happy to collaborate with Equity, Microsoft and The University of Nairobi.”

Operational business units from the bank underwent a rigorous process to identify and craft business and social problem statements, which the students participating in the Equity Hackathon will attempt to solve.

These challenges fall within the payments, financial inclusion and know your customer thematic areas.

The Hackathon is set to run between February 17 and March 17, this year, and has been phased into four stages.

The first phase will involve instructor-led and self-paced training of the participants on Microsoft Azure and the Business Problem Statements.

In the second stage, the students will go through the coding with mentorship from representatives from Equity, the University of Nairobi, Meru University of Science and Technology and Microsoft.

Their solutions will then go through a 1st and 2nd knock-off stage, that will culminate in the selection of three winners.

University students taking part in the Hackathon event will stand a chance to win exciting prizes with grand prize winner or winning group walking away with a cash prize of Kes600,000, three months mentorship opportunity from Microsoft, Technical Cloud certificates for all team members, and a gift hamper.

In addition, the first and second runners-up individual or group will take home a cash prize of Kes250,000 and Kes150,000 respectively, in addition to a three-month mentorship opportunity from Microsoft and a gift hamper.

“We believe this initiative will positively contribute to Equity’s existing partnership with The University of Nairobi and Meru University of Science and Technology that is mutually beneficial to the institutions and centered around the commercialization of innovations that come from the universities,” added Dr Mwangi.

Equity has been at the forefront of deepening financial inclusion through championing the development of innovative solutions that socially and economically empower consumers, businesses, enterprises, and communities.

Through its innovations in digital banking, the bank has seen its customers increase transactions taking place out of the bank to 98 percent.

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