App 'gamifying' tourism wins 'eco hackathon'

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino-made mobile app “gamifying” tourism won in a 56-hour "eco hackathon" recently held in Manila.

Mic Gutierrez, Louis Michael Concepcion and Dominic Tuazon are the members of “Instigators,” besting more than 280 participants during the “Hack the Climate: Manila” held at the De La Salle-College of St Benilde from June 6 to 8.

The “Tanaw” app they developed intends to promote local tourism also while helping monitor and preserve the environment.

Tanaw in Filipino means to see. The app features crowdsourced information on various places and locations called “Tanawins” (literally, sceneries). The app serves as a virtual tour guide of the places.

Using in-app rewards, users can exchange their points to real-life benefits such as discount vouchers, among others, if businesses agree to have their places set up at Tanaw.

“Think of it like we’re gamifying travelling,” said Gutierrez, while Concepcion added, “And the tourist spots are your playground.”

Tuazon also said, “It’s more of a collect-them-all model.”

Concepcion and Tuazon, who are work colleagues, have been joining hackathons in the past. Tuazon invited Gutierrez to serve as the “business guy” of the team.

Commercial deployment?

But during the "Hack the Climate: Manila" event, tech experts, venture capitalists and environmental organization representatives also spoke to help inspire participants.

Tuazon said the initial idea of “Tanaw” even came from the speech of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Gina Lopez.

“The idea of monitoring the environment was from her talk. There is also a part of our app that includes providing the local communities some sort of livelihood,” Tuazon said.

His team took home US $800 which they plan to invest on better equipment.

“As for the cash prize, well, we definitely want to give a portion of it back to charity, but we also want to put it to good use by investing it in better hardware, software, etc,” Gutierrez said.

"Hack the Climate: Manila" is a project of junior engineering students Jacob Scheer and Miguel Lachanski of Princeton University, designed to support development of web and mobile app to facilitate climate change mitigation efforts, crisis management, and long-term adaptation effort.

“Many of the applications developed during the hackathon showed promise for commercial deployment. The output also showed the relatively high level of awareness of the young developers on climate change, and how they have creatively integrated this into the apps that they have developed,” said Smart Communication’s Public Affairs head Ramon Isberto. Smart Communication is one of the sponsors of the event.

Scheer and Lachanski won a US$10,000-grant from Davis Projects for Peace to conduct the hackathon and have reached out to a university in the Philippines to collaborate on this.

On their website, the two said that “the Philippines also has a unique technological culture not found anywhere else in the world. As evidenced by the sheer number of hackathons, rate of mobile phone ownership and large number of tech start-ups in the Philippines, this country is fertile ground for innovative tech solutions to the issues of our time.”

"We're staying in contact with the winners and see what they are up to. We are also staying in contact with the other participants because we don't want the other apps to be put to waste," Scheer told Rappler. –