Osama explains to the young people gathered at the Hackathon held in Tripoli and organized by UNDP Accelerator Lab in Libya the rules of the competition. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

by Osama Mansour, Head of Exploration at UNDP's Accelerator Lab in Libya.


Charles Kettering once said: “A problem well stated is half solved.”

The Accelerator Lab in Libya has dig deep to understand the complex issue of Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Libya

We have gathered SWM different stakeholders in Libya to try to find the root cause of seeing in the streets of our cities, garbage piled every day.

Stephen R. Covey stated: “Seek first to understand and then to be understood” – This is the motto of our Lab to make an effective and efficient difference.

Together with these stakeholders we identified the gaps that UNDP Libya can fill in, intervening, testing and scaling up to make significant improvements in the solid waste management system in Libya.

Our main conclusion so far is that one prominent missing piece from the waste management system in Libya is the use of technology to improve services delivery.

Hence, we started thinking about what we can do about it, and whether we should just purchase from the shelf or engage with various software developers to find an effective product.

Participants work on their proposals to tackle the solid waste management challenge in Libya. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

Why don’t we ask tech-savvy youth how they would use technology to improve the solid waste management system in Libya?

At the end of January 2020, we launched a Hackathon in Libya. The competition aimed at opening the doors to young Libyans to think about new ideas for services related to solid waste management.

Being only the second time that such an event has been organised in Libya, the Lab team was extremely excited. Our expectations on the competition’s result were very moderate since we possessed zero experience of hackathons.  Nevertheless, we relied on the smart young people to create interesting solutions for SWM. Around 106 young people applied for the innovation challenge, and almost 26 were selected to join the competition.

For 24 hours, they presented their ideas on technical devices that could be used to segregate waste.

Our government partners were passionate and eager to participate in the event. A lot of people attended the first day of the Hackathon, including representatives from the Municipality of Tripoli Centre, Janzour Municipality, and Maya Municipality, as well as prominent local organizations such as Zero Waste Libya (NGO) and O2 (NGO).The bell rang to begin the completion, and many of the participants decided to spend the night at the Co-working centre (Nuqta Coworking Space), where the competition was held.  Others preferred to leave and continue working in their own space.

How was the day of the 24-hours for the candidates look like?

Well, it was exhausting, but, notably, there was much enthusiasm.  Working as teams, with little chats from time to time with the Lab team and the NGOs members who explained the challenges the country is facing to tackle the waste issue.

 

The Hackathon winner, Abdalmajid Ali Alqubtan, poses together with UNDP's Accelerator Lab team in Libya. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

The result

Following 24-hour of tireless work, the candidates presented the products to the panel, indeed, we were impressed with the number of excellent ideas developed. The products were mainly software and Apps to manage the SWM, but others proposed incredible hardware solutions.

The winner idea was a mobile App with numerous functions to be used by the solid waste companies, municipalities and the general public to communicate and improve the solid waste services.

The winner, Abdalmajid Ali Alqubtan, presented his App which intended to manage the waste collection with numerous features, including the following functions:

  • Messages addressing the community to raise awareness on the importance of living in a clean and garbage-free environment;
  • It shows the places where people could dispose of garbage, and waste trucks collection schedules;
  • Statistics platform - used to gather data about the collected waste amounts. comparison of municipal solid waste and conducting survey related to the waste challenge in Libya;
  • Citizens can be reporting issues to municipalities
  • Special form to request large quantity waste collection;
  • Waste trucks location map, plastic collection points, and landfill;
  • Waste collection services subscription notification;
  • Instructions on how to report issues and communicate with the municipalities;
  • Guidelines on how to recycle and separate garbage.
Images show the functions of the winner App created by Abdalmajid Ali Alqubtan.

What is coming next for Lab

Let's ask ourselves whether this App can help to create a cleaner environment in Libya, and reduce de garbage in the streets, or not – perhaps not. But, for now the Accelerator Lab is thrilled to keep investigating with this App and the other designed experiments to find out what works and what does not. We will learn soon!

How can we make the App a sustainable solution?

UNDP and its partners, including the municipalities, created indicators that can show the effectiveness of the App: and therefore, as a first phase, the municipality of Tripoli Centre will employ the App. The Lab will be assessing closely the impacts that App offers, for example, looking at the feedback of collectors (privet & public companies), the number of users by the citizens using the App and the reduction of time and efforts that the App helps the users from the community and the Municipality to achieve.

Whether technological innovation is the key to improving solid waste management or only resolving part of the issue - this is what we are excited to find out soon.

Participants celebrate the end of the 24 hours hackathon in Tripoli organized by UNDP Accelerator Lab in Libya. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.
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