Microsoft’s Annual Hackathon Seeking Solutions to Social Problems Sees IIITH Students In Second Place.
Third year BTech (Hons) students Rohan Chacko and Aadil Mehdi Sanchawala, have won the second place at the Microsoft CodeFunDo ++ 2019 hackathon. This annual event which is open only to premier institutes across the country such as the IITs, IIIT Hyderabad, BITS, NITs and others, seeks to find innovative solutions to pressing problems facing the country.
Conducted in two phases, the preliminary round finds students competing with peers from their respective institutes. The winners from this round then go on to compete with others at the national-level.
CodeFundDo ++ Challenge 2019
The challenge for 2019 was to increase transparency, reliability, and accountability of the Indian electoral process using blockchain technology, mandatorily with Microsoft’s own flagship product, the Azure Blockchain service. A number of example ideas were listed on the website for the participating teams to choose from, such as scenarios where the blockchain application could be utilised to ensure an automatic creation of an e-Voter ID card as soon as an Indian citizen turns 18, or one where that no eligible voter is left out of the Voter’s List, to expedite counting and tallying of votes, to secure EVMs to counter claims of hacking, or even the creation of an app that could potentially help a voter decide which candidate to vote for based on some metrics.
What They Did
What Rohan and Aadil Mehdi did was to focus on the issue of illegitimate sources of political party funding. “To reduce the influence of money on electoral politics, we built a system to make political party funding transparent so that voters can see who is bankrolling their politicians and vote accordingly,” they say. With the help of their winning system, eligible voters can see the funds transferred into the political parties’ accounts and also see where and what the political parties are spending their donations on.
How It Works
The duo under the team name, ‘Greenticks’ created a web app on the blockchain network called TrueFunder where all the stakeholders such as the donors, political parties and vendors each have an account along with an associated virtual wallet. Devising a new cryptocurrency named ‘ChaCoin’ to be used for all transactions on the network, ‘Greenticks’ created a verifiable method to track funds and flag unusual and suspicious funding activities. With such a transparent and verifiable in-depth analytics system, voters can see how funds are being used enabling them to vote responsibly.
Musing on what made their innovation stand out amongst other competitors, Rohan and AadilMehdi point out to their creation of a cryptocurrency which they believe will not only be more transparent and reduce dependency on cash but is also in keeping with Prime Minister Modi’s vision of a cashless society. “We also believe that the uniqueness of a complete end-to-end system we proposed was the reason behind our win,” they say.
Attractive prizes ranging from t-shirts for all participants whose ideas get selected in phase 2 to cash prizes for winning teams at the college and national level have made this hackathon a much sought-after competition among geeks. Our own winning team received Rs 60,000 initially in the preliminary phase and went on to bag Rs 2,000,00 as the team in second place in the national challenge.
Definitely not newbies to the CodeFunDo++ challenge, Rohan and AadilMehdi had heard of it for the first time through a senior prompting their participation in 2018. That year, the challenge focused on innovative ways to improve relief response during natural disasters. “We won second place at the college-level then,” they smile. The two of them who are incidentally BTech candidates through the DASA mode of admission got to know each other in the first semester thanks to mutual interests and have been great friends ever since. Stating that they work well together and complement each other’s skill sets and strengths, they add, ”We try our hands at anything we have the opportunity for, be it hackathons, CTFs, development, academic research and even competitive coding. Not all our attempts are successful, but they are all extremely enjoyable and enlightening. I guess, the shared interest of experimenting with anything is really motivating is something that we really admire in each other.” Currently facing some spare time on their hands due to the forced lockdown, Rohan can be found catching up on much-needed sleep and experimenting in the kitchen. AadilMehdi plays the violin as a way to unwind and destress. He’s using the time to catch up on good movies, mystery novels and hang out with his pets.