India's brightest minds unite to tackle social challenges

More than 40 new mobile apps were created at Satvika 2013 - but not by the usual crowd of Mark Zuckerberg wannabes. Instead, they were created by adolescent girls.

With a rapidly growing technology sector, the sight of rooms full of budding entrepreneurs and innovators coming together to create new apps is not an unusual one in India.

These events - such as the one held at the Satvika 2013 technology conference last week - are known as hackathons. More than 200 bright minds came together in Kerala to create 40 new mobile apps aimed at tackling some of the country's social challenges, such as safety and access to health information.

But this was no ordinary hackathon. The apps at Satvika 2013 weren't made by the usual crowd of Mark Zuckerberg wannabes. Instead, they were created by adolescent girls.

"The point of the hackathon is to give girls a community where they can showcase what they have built and make them believe in their own abilities," says organiser Deepak Ravindran.

"In India, everyone aspires to be a Bollywood star or cricket hero but people forget that India is a place for quality developers or technologists, who are actually some of the best in the world."

Technology revolution

Satvika 2013 was created by Innoz - the company Deepak runs - to make sure girls have the skills and opportunities they need to play an equal role in India's technological revolution.

"Girls shouldn't be left behind in a world where technology is becoming more important," says Deepak. "They should play a key role, and should be highlighted in tech development to help them engage more in the conversation."

Among the apps created were: #duedate, which expectant mothers can use to find out when their baby will be born; #baby, which provides information about infant vaccines; #donateblood, which directs users to their local donation bank; and #toursafe, which provides information on safe travel.

The winning app, though, was #preg, which is designed to provide information for women during pregnancy. Users enter their due date and then receive SMS messages with information on tests and visits.

Clear opportunities

Deepak thinks the event was a huge success and stresses that with more opportunities like this, girls can help shape our rapidly changing world.

"The main objective was to bring more girl developers into the mainstream," he says. "Hackathons like this one mean that girls can gain confidence and clout in the tech environment. With the world changing so much, there's also a clear opportunity to change it for girls and make sure they have a bright future in it."