It was 5:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon but rather than leaving the office for the weekend, people were pouring into USAID's aptly named "IDEA lab." Why? For food. Not for the enticing spread laid out on the corner table, but for the chance to help tackle critical food security challenges in developing countries. While many dedicated entrepreneurs, food security stakeholders, data experts, programers and volunteers who filled the lab, even more attended virtually, from Houston, the UK, and even Austria (the Delhi team was fast asleep).
USAID's first hackathon started with introductions by Nathaniel Manning, Presidential Innovation Fellow and Special Advisor on the Open Data Initiative at USAID; Ricardo Michel, Deputy Director of the Office of Innovation and Development Alliances, USAID; and Julie Howard, Bureau of Food Security at USAID. Then attention turned to the T.V. screen as team leads in Houston, Austria, and the UK pitched their ideas to potential collaborators.
Early Saturday, six eager teams began to hack away at the challenges they had set for themselves: Grower's Nation, PineApple Project, Geo-Wiki, Digital Green + Palantir, Grameen Foundation + Palantir, and a new arrival, Sonjara.