Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard University, and IFMR LEAD at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, organized a Policy Dialogue hackathon, dubbed PolicyHack on the 18-19 April, 2015 at the American Center in New Delhi, India. 

PolicyHack brought together over 80 of India’s top developers and software engineers to work with policy makers, representatives from academia, and government partners to develop new tools and innovations to create a more effective, efficient, and transparent government. A Policy Dialogue under EPoD's Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence program, the event aimed to demonstrate how evidence-informed policy can be achieved through collaborative projects that bring technological innovations to policy stakeholders using the diverse perspective of a new generation of Indian technology developers. These developers were presented with policy problems across four policy tracks, each representing a different policy problem that was posed by policy partners and developed in collaboration with EPoD staff in India. These included:

  • Matching vocational trainees and willing employers, with DDU-GKY Skills Division, Ministry of Rural Development  
  • Increasing transparency in education, with the Central Square Foundation
  • Water management in the city of Delhi, with the Delhi Dialogue Commission, Government of Delhi 
  • Tracking and tackling the challenge of counterfeit products, Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution

These policy tracks were designed in the months leading up to the event, and matched with relevant data sources. The policy partners also attended the opening session of PolicyHack to present their challenges and provide guidance in the developers’ research and development of a solution. Teams of coders spent almost two full days developing solutions to one of these particular policy track challenges. Some teams alternatively chose to pursue a fifth “open” track, in which the team was tasked with designing both the challenge and a solution using any open-source government data available.

After roughly 30 hours of work (broken up only by meals, two “flash talks,” and a few structured mentoring sessions), each team of developers presented their solutions to the panel of judges, who selected one winning team from each policy track. The judges used a rubric that included the real-world application as well as the innovation of the solution. Of the winning projects, one was awarded the grand prize of mentoring from the EPoD teams in India and Cambridge, who will provide guidance in shaping a full-scale proposal for the policy partner.

The event created much excitement around the use of data within the policy and research circles in India. It was covered by several media outlets, including a feature in Business World and Business World’s separate magazine Smart Cities

For more information, please see our PolicyHack Dialogue Report.