A team participating in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s hackathon for youth won for their design of a mobile tool that verifies the authenticity of a medication. The tool is accompanied by a ChatBot awareness campaign on the potential dangers of using counterfeit medicines.
Solving some of today’s most pressing issues requires digital innovation, social entrepreneurship and, crucially, the buy-in and unique insights of young people. This third edition of the ‘Coding4Integrity’ hackathon was designed to bring university students and young coders together to brainstorm technological solutions to prevent or address corruption. As Mr. Cristóbal Thompson, Executive Director of the Mexican Association of Pharmaceutical Research Industries (AMIIF), commented: "When we discuss digital solutions, what could be better than having young people developing them?”
This third edition of the hackathon focused on corruption in the healthcare sector. Corruption poses a significant threat to public health, reducing the effectiveness, quality and availability of health services while inflating their costs. It deprives communities of vital services, essential products and critical resources, undermining the rights of individuals to adequate, accessible healthcare. Corrupt practices, such as additional payments for preferential treatment, can further exacerbate the burden on poor and marginalized populations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated corruption risks in the health systems worldwide, demonstrating once again that corruption poses a significant threat to public health. As a result, there have been increasing calls for greater transparency and integrity in health systems, as well as for efforts to strengthen the ability of public health organizations to effectively and rapidly respond to this and any forthcoming health crises.
Strong anti-corruption measures help safeguard crisis response and recovery efforts and ensure that measures aimed at enhancing health and well-being for all have a significant impact.
UNODC tasked the students and coders with building innovative, ICT-based solutions to either enhance transparency in the public procurement of medicines, boost corruption reporting and promote integrity in the health sector, or prevent and combat counterfeit medicines.
After two days of non-stop coding, the judging panel named Team “Pharmabot” the winner. "This team helped us find where the biggest concern lies and how to use our mobile phones to identify fake medications. That is thinking outside the box," commented Ms. María Teresa Cantú Reus, Compliance Officer at AMIIF and member of the jury.
To ensure this innovative idea can offer a real-world solution, Team “PharmaBot” will receive expert technical mentoring as well as further support from healthcare sector partners and other private sector, civil society and international cooperation allies of the hackathon over the next months. This will enable them to continue this exciting work and further develop the winning prototype so as to ensure usability, marketability and, ultimately, sustainability as their technological and anti-corruption skills are further strengthened.
The third edition of the Coding4Integrity hackathon series combined elements from three key education and business integrity initiatives run by UNODC and funded by the Siemens Integrity Initiative to shape the next generation of integrity leaders: the Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment (GRACE), Global Action for Business Integrity and the Global Integrity Education Project. It also took place as part of UNODC’s global events during 2023 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption – a unique tool which has changed the global anti-corruption landscape by bringing together actors worldwide to counter this crime, including youth and the private sector.