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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Third year IT Software Development student, Athenkosi Sajini, was part of the team that took 2nd place in the recent Microsoft Safe@Home Hackathon.

For the competition, Athenkosi and his team – iWitness - developed a social media chatbot that enables victims of GBV to discreetly capture details of an incident.

Mandatory quarantine orders necessitated by the spread of COVID-19 have given rise to a dramatic increase in gender-based violence across the globe. As a result and in honour of Women's Month in South Africa, Microsoft sponsored an 11-week hackathon, challenging teams of three to six people to develop applications to support those experiencing gender-based violence.

The team’s chatbot on WhatsApp, Facebook and web collects evidence which can later be accessed to support the user’s case in establishing a pattern of abuse. Users can also access additional support, including finding a place of safety, how to apply for a protection order and contacting a counsellor. 

Participants could register for the hackathon as a team or as individuals. Athenkosi registered as an individual and then joined up with a team during an online match-matching session where he put forward his proposal. He was noticed by Percyval Gonde from Johannesburg who invited him to the iWitness Team along with four other members. Athenkosi was the team’s designer.

Out of 66 projects submitted and 332 active participants, iWitness made it to the top six. On Monday, 26 October, they presented their idea and prototype in the final. Thereafter, the top three were announced.

The award came with a $2000 prize – asked what he will do with his share of the money, Athenkosi replied “With how steep the learning curve was when I was orientating myself around Microsoft's software tools, I will invest my portion of the money in buying some of the premium tools by Microsoft that I can use to develop more projects in the long-run.” 

No stranger to taking up leadership positions, Athenkosi is Mandela University Computer Society Vice-Chairperson, Hector Pieterson Residence Safety & Maintenance Officer, Madibaz Chess Club Executive Member and a Feenix Student Ambassador.

View the iWitness project page at: