Hong Kong startup Divao wins $10K in Seedstars’ global digital democracy hackathon

The Digital Democracy Challenge, a 72-hour online hackathon by Seedstars focused on developing innovative and viable digital solutions to strengthen the digital democratic space, has declared its winners: Divao (Hong Kong), SafeNow (Nigeria), and Crowd Journal (Kenya). The top three solutions are awarded $10K USD for first place, $8K USD for second place, and $6K USD for third place.

The Digital Democracy Challenge was organized to find innovative, low-cost, and viable digital solutions to uphold a digital civic and democratic public space under challenging and complex conditions.

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The program sought solutions that would allow citizens, activists, civil society actors, disenfranchised political actors and other stakeholders to stay in contact with each other and their supporters abroad, keep the democratic space alive, maintain a space for dialogue and ideas, and provide first-hand accounts of government activities.

The 72-hour collaborative digital process included sessions and mentors who helped the startups refine and improve their ideas. The program finished off with a demo day, where the participants pitched to a jury: Ian Charles Stewart, Chairman at WheelsPlusWings Foundation; Angela Homsi, Founder at Angaza – Ignite Power; Eldrid Jordaan, Founder and Chief Executive at GovChat; Mir Nadia Nivin, Development Professional; and Harry Federspiel, Head of Global Programs at Seedstars.

The top three winners, who will win $10K USD for first place, $8K USD for second place, and $6K USD for third, are:
1st place: Divao (Hong Kong) – Divao creates a private blockchain to let locals in a neighbourhood find, offer, and exchange services, goods and other community values such as spaces. It provides a platform to grow a local community in a decentralized way.
2nd place: SafeNow (Nigeria) – SafeNow mobile application is a one-click solution for quick reporting of unsafe incidence to helpmates and security authorities. The platform aims to amplify the call for safety for families, friends, and democratic nations at large.
3rd place: Crowd Journal (Kenya) – Crowd Journal is a digital platform that amplifies underrepresented Voices in mainstream media by facilitating participatory (crowd) Journalism. Eyewitnesses from all over the globe can now publish their experiences thereby giving voice to stories that would otherwise be shunned by mainstream media.

First placer, Divao’s Alice Lo shared her experience in the Digital Democracy Challenge, “Even when we heard the other pitches we were continuously brainstorming how our own solution’s impact could be deepened to address issues such as limited connectivity.”

“The Digital Democracy Challenge participants, representing 15 countries, were brilliantly engaged and pursued tech-based ideas with impressive creativity and speed,” said Archie Moberly, Seedstars Partnerships Manager, Asia Pacific. “The mentors went above and beyond to provide personalized, positive and powerful input for their teams. The final winners, Divao, SafeNow and CrowdJournal are well deserving of their prizes and I’m eager to see how they no doubt continue to progress in the future. The rapid development of extraordinary ideas all addressing major issues and crises faced in decreasingly democratic nations was a pleasure to witness. Congratulations to all!”

The hackathon comes as a response to the growing decline of democracy seen worldwide. Open civic space allows citizens and civil society organizations to come together, share their interests and concerns and act individually and collectively to influence and shape democratic societies. However, the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2020 is down to the levels around 1990.

Digital democracy is the use of digital tools to shape a democratic society. It can make disenfranchised voices heard, encourage greater participation, and generate more trust in public institutions and decision-making. However, in many countries, autocratization is on the rise.

Technology has facilitated inclusive participation far beyond any other means of communication. It has also served to promote democracy and expand citizen participation while also reaching people who have been left out of democratic processes. Hence, it is vitally important that we come together to develop innovative solutions and contribute to furthering Goal 16 of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This will help people keep the principles and practice of democratic and civic participation alive at the community and civil society levels, especially in places that have recently fallen or have been under restrictive regimes.

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