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Public sector hackathon unleashes creativity and digital innovation

The #pshack100 course is one of Aalto University's Finland100 projects.
On 16 December, all the 26 teams gave their 3-minute final pitch at the School of Business. Student Aki Putkiranta's turn from the Customs' team CLARE.

Seven interesting public sector organisations – the Apotti project, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, the National Police Board, the Finnish Defence Forces, The Finnish Border Guard, the Ministry of the Interior, and Finnish Customs – presented Aalto students with the challenge to develop solutions that will make it easier to deal with the aforementioned organisations and increase the use of their online and mobile services.

These challenges have been tackled since the November kick-off event for the Public Service Hackathon #pshack100 course, which is open to all Aalto University MA students. In the School of Business, the hackathon course also serves as the alternative to the capstone course that concludes the master’s programme in several different degree programmes. In total, 92 Aalto students have participated in the course from five of the University’s schools, as well as 18 students from the National Defence University. The multidisciplinary master's level course is worth six credits (ECTS) and is arranged in English, as almost half of the course's participants come from abroad.

A practically-oriented course that emphasises teamwork

The course has included lectures, close teamwork, and student coaching by representatives from Accenture, Fjord, Aalto and the public sector organisations.

Jemina Härkälä, one of the students on the Customs team, says that her team’s task was to make it easier to declare gifts that come from outside the EU.
‘We're developing a text message arrival notification system that contains a personalised link to the online declaration process with step-by-step instructions. Our solution would partially automate information gathering so that the declaration process would be much quicker and easier to understand from the customer’s point of view. We assume that the implementation of our solution and the automation it contains would also significantly decrease the number of queries that the Customs’ customer services receives. The course has been fast-paced and practically-oriented, and it really emphasises teamwork. The best part has been the support and enthusiastic attitude of the Finnish Customs’ staff and the feeling of success when we succeeded in finishing the solution and presenting it to the audience,’ notes Jemina Härkälä. 

24-hour Hackathon event at the core of the course

As part of the course, a 24-hour Hackathon event was held in Otaniemi’s Urban Mill on 17–19 November.

‘It was a really inspiring event. The students received extremely valuable coaching from the organisations’ experts and Aalto's academic members. The course has been really inspiring and eye-opening for the coaches as well, as they’ve had the opportunity to receive the students’ fresh insight into these challenges,’ notes Senior University Lecturer Johanna Bragge from the School of Business's Department of Information and Service Economy, who acts as the academic coordinator of the course.

On 9 February 2017, the course will conclude with a Grande Finale event, where every organisation’s top-ranked teams will present their idea to an esteemed panel of judges. At the end of the event, the best team will be announced. The winner must not only have an excellent innovation, but also give the perfect pitch. The main speaker at the Finland100 event is Minister Anu Vehviläinen.

In addition to Bragge, the other Aalto participants in the implementation of the course include Professor of Practice Esko Penttinen, Assistant Professor Eeva Vilkkumaa, University Lecturer Christa Uusi-Rauva, post-doc researcher Jani Merikivi, and researcher Darius Pacauskas. They want to acknowledge the contribution of both the active coaches from the different government agencies as well as the teams from Accenture and Fjord, who have been excellent cooperation partners. The Hackathon course was organised now for the second time.

More information:

The project website: https://nordic-events.accenture.com/hackathon/#/
The MyCourses page for the course: https://mycourses.aalto.fi/course/view.php?id=12317

Follow and participate in the discussion on Twitter: #pshack100 #aalto #finland100

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