Empowering solutions


4 minute read

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a robust mobilisation of hackathons around the world – part of the drive to find new pathways for addressing global challenges.

Last month, Monika Lionaite, a postgraduate student from The Australian National University (ANU), participated in the search for solutions by organising Openhack Hack4Future 2020 Australia, a virtual global hackathon.

“It was a 48-hour online event that livestreamed from Canberra. People from over 40 countries had engaged,” says Monika, who is studying a Master of Business Information Systems at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE).

A hackathon is an event where engineers, programmers, designers, marketers and animators work together over the course of several days to create or innovate something new.

“It is a great way to bring the community together and facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration among diverse participants, and help them create sustainable solutions. The event is a vibrant learning environment that makes people excited to learn about the most modern technology, such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchains, Cloud and even App development tools,” explains Monika, who founded Openhack 2020 Australia earlier this year after relocating to Canberra from Stockholm, Sweden.

I have met inspiring professors, students and researchers here at ANU.

The hackathon she organised involved three challenges offered to the participants to solve: tracking the spread of COVID-19; bushfire risk management and smart cities switching towards renewable energy.

Plague. Inc, a team of university students, received the Global Change Maker Award for their “transferrable and scalable” answer to the problems around effectively tracing COVID-19. The winning team’s solution to the virus-tracking issue was to use data that was already available. It would use people’s locations from telecom providers by anonymising them and only utilising the location-time information linked to a hashed phone number. This approach would support governments worldwide, who are reliant on their community’s cooperation to trace the outbreaks. 

Back in Sweden, Monika worked as a project manager and hackathon consultant before leaping continents to explore new avenues in Australia.

Now at CBE since the beginning of the year, she is currently conducting research about how collaborative programming events can be used as a tool to facilitate learning.

“I have been working with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and applying their Learning Cities Framework to survey how hackathons can be used to create learning cities worldwide. Our work is about promoting lifelong learning and developing digital competence, digital literacy and ICT skills. The key findings in my research so far show that hackathons provide opportunities to develop collaboration, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, using technology as a tool for learning,” shares Monika.

Despite the restrictions currently in place due to COVID-19, her ANU experience has enabled her to collaborate with others.

“I have met inspiring professors, students and researchers here, and had several fruitful discussions with the heads of departments from various ANU schools and programs. Openhack Hack4Future’s primary sponsors were the ANU Research School of Physics and the Brindabella Rotaract Club. It has been a great way to find the best talents,” Monika reflects.  


The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.