Darwazah Center's Hackathon Looks For Tech Solutions For Ineffective Foreign Aid Management in Lebanon Three Lebanese startups won the Darwazah Center's "Data for Good- I Code for Lebanon" hackathon by trying to solve "waste" or "leakage" in the current system of foreign aid disbursement in Lebanon.

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Darwazah Center for Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship

The Lebanon-headquartered Darwazah Center for Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship (DCIME) recently held its first ever hackathon to find technology-backed solutions for the issue of foreign aid management in the country.

The "Data for Good- I Code for Lebanon" hackathon, held in late May 2021 in collaboration with the Olayan School of Business Master's in Business Analytics (MSBA) and Inventis Corp, the hackathon was organized to bring forward solutions that use big data and blockchain technology.

The three winning solutions -LebAid, Ziraatech, and Block Donate- were fast-tracked to the semifinals of Darwazah Center's annual accelerator program, Darwazah Startup Accelerate.

A snapshot of the virtually held hackathon. Image courtesy: Darwazah Center

LebAid, a blockchain-based platform that directly links crowdfunding donors to the beneficiaries that are most in need or highly vulnerable, won first place and a prize money of US$500. The solution, which was also created in part to support and manage the World Bank economic crisis recovery funds, enables the leveraging of NGOs that have the most in-depth knowledge about the socioeconomic status and locations of those most in need of financial assistance.

In second place was Ziraatech which facilitated the disbursement of $300 vouchers to 26,000 farmers grappling to supply raw materials and ensure operational continuity in the wake of the severe 90% devaluation seen in the Lebanese pound.

Block Donate, a blockchain-based platform that aims to connect aid donors to grassroot NGOs in Lebanon in order to ensure transparency in the disbursement of funds to the houses and businesses affected by the 2020 Beirut port blasts, won the third place at the hackathon.

With the Lebanese nation largely depending on help from other countries in order to provide a much-needed boost to its flailing economy, there is an increasing need for transparent and efficient aid management processes and systems. Following a global conference held in Paris in 2018 that was aimed at taking a collective action to support of the Lebanese economy, many funds and grants were dedicated towards the country. However, some estimates have suggested that a small percentage of the aid disbursement could potentially be subject to "waste" or "leakage" in the current system in place, and while political corruption has been affiliated as one of the causes, inefficient and outdated aid management procedures are also at fault.

The hackathon was held as a two-tracked event by focusing on the improvements needed in current foreign aid management processes, and on innovative and relevant ideas that employ data for doing good in social and economic sectors.

The ten participating teams also took part in workshops on how to develop the right prototypes and how to incorporate relevant blockchain options into the solutions were held by the MSBA program's director Dr. Wissam Sammouri and senior lecturer Dr. Elie Nasr. Four teams were then selected to develop and design a screen-based demo of their target system and present their business pitches in front of a jury of judges.

"Big data and blockchain can be leveraged for a sustainable foreign aid framework in Lebanon, and the Data for Good hackathon is the right vehicle to tap into our youth's skills for devising solutions that can lead to better targeting, enhanced efficiency, transparency and accountability of aid management," said Zeina Kassem, economist and senior expert at Inventis Corp, at the event.

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