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A major component of the Humanitarian and Emergency Logistics Innovation Expo (HELiX) 2021 is the upcoming AHAckathon competition. This competition, a hackathon (big clue in the name), is an exciting new concept for the AHA Centre and has been launched as an effort to engage more students, young people and professionals in the process of producing innovations to support humanitarian logistics and supply-chain management for the ASEAN region. But what exactly is a hackathon?

The word hackathon itself is a portmanteau of “hacking” and “marathon”, and as such is a race in which software developers, programmers, interface designers, project managers and others collaborate in developing a programme or software. The participating teams are normally given a deadline, often 48 hours, to work on the software at a marathon-like work pace. The competition is not limited only to programmers or those with coding expertise, but also to project managers or designers, as the team has to work on developing a solution to questions provided for a certain theme.

The general concept is that each team will be provided with the theme and set of questions for them to work together in developing software that can help to solve the problems. Hackathon competitions have become widely popular since the mid to late 2000s as a tool for companies and venture capitalists to develop software technologies in a short time and then promote them for potential funding.

Nowadays, the competitions are no longer limited to the commercial and private sector but also other sectors such as government and humanitarian agencies. The hackathon is a venue for all sectors to promote innovation and gather solutions, specifically from students and young people, who are normally the main target participants of the competition.

The AHAckathon is being staged by the AHA Centre as part of HELIX 2021, in partnership with the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority (VNDMA) and in cooperation with HELP Logistics, Impact Week and LaunchLabs. The event is supported by the Government of Japan through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF).

AHAckathon participants have to propose software or application-based solutions to identified problems in humanitarian logistics. The teams will have 48 hours to work and finish the software or application. Representatives of the ASEAN Member States and from universities and other humanitarian partners will serve as judges of the competition.



How can humanitarian needs be quickly identified or estimated?

How can relief assistance be distributed more quickly, be better tracked and their receipt reported efficiently?

How can affected communities be better informed about assistance and provide feedback?

How can customs, immigration and quarantine protocols be processed more quickly?

How can decision-makers be better informed about the needs, progress and feedback from the response?

The purpose of the AHAckathon is to promote innovative solutions and collaboration to support the improvement of humanitarian logistics for the ASEAN Member States and humanitarian communities in the ASEAN region. It is hoped that the competition will trigger more creative ideas to solve the problems identified in relation to many components of the humanitarian logistics and supply-chain management process in the region.

Through the AHAckathon, the AHA Centre and our partners also want to promote collaboration between the commercial and non-commercial sectors. The competition will provide an opportunity for hackers, programmers and project managers across the globe to work together. While in return, they will have an opportunity to get coaching from experienced start-up entrepreneurs and design thinking experts, as well as exposure to potential investors.

The competition is open to students, amateurs and professionals. As we believe a complex problem requires a collaborative effort, individuals and teams may come from different disciplines to work together to unpack the problems and provide solutions. The competition will be conducted virtually from 8-10 October, 2021.


Written by : Caroline Widagdo