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Mindanao hackers lend a hand in solving Manila and Cebu traffic problems

July 18, 2013 7:26pm

Mindanao is not known for its traffic, but that didn’t stop Davao and Gen San hackers and developers from lending a hand to help solve some of Metro Manila and Cebu’s traffic problems by participating at the Philippine Transit App Challenge (PTAC).

Hackers, developers, start-ups, and students came together July 17 in Davao City and July 18 at General Santos City to form teams, brainstorm for ideas, and get a better understanding of how hackers and the government can come together to create solutions for some of the worst traffic problems.

The Philippine Transit App Challenge is a competition organized by the Department of Transportation and Communicatio (DOTC), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Cebu City Government, other government organizations related to transportation (PNR, LRTA, LTFRB), and the private sector with the support of the World Bank.

In order to create the apps, the DOTC and MMDA are giving developers access to the traffic information databases they have available. Developers are also free to improve on the apps and software already in use or supported by the DOTC and MMDA.

The overall aim of the competition is come up with useful mobile applications that would make commuting in these heavily-congested cities easier, faster, and less problematic.
 
Unlike most hackathons where developers are only given a short amount of time to develop their applications, the Philippine Transit App Challenge is a hack-at-home competition. The developers were given until Sept 30 to form teams, conceptualize, and create their apps before submitting it to the PTAC website.

Fans can vote for their favorite apps online from Oct 1 to 11 before the final 10 are selected on Oct 12. The winners will be announced on Oct 15, with the best transit app winning as much as P100,000 and a guaranteed nomination to the Mobile Premier Awards 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.
 
To give developers an idea of how the traffic system works in general, representatives from the Traffic Management Center of Davao City gave a short, simplified lecture on the different factors that affect traffic, how the local Davao traffic system works, the technologies used by the centralized traffic system, and information available to the public that developers can be used for their apps.

Established developers and start-up founders present also gave the students in attendance technical and practical advice as they build their app for the competition.
 
During the PTAC launch in Davao City, several students and freelancers had already presented notable ideas that could lead to competition entries if they chose to pursue it, like a mobile app that automatically computes for bus fare rates and a social networking application that encourages participants to report traffic incidences in exchange for points.
 
As enthusiastic as the Davao developers are, one major challenge that they encountered is the difficulty in relating to the chaotic traffic system to Metro Manila and Cebu.  

“Spoiled tayo dito sa Davao,” admits JP Abesamis, a member of the technical staff of the Davao City Traffic Management Center. “Meron tayong centralized command center at 'di natin problema masyado ang traffic.”
 
But event organizer and Google Business Group Davao Manager Dulce Rose Lada believes that this would obstacle would only showcase the skill of developers from Mindanao.

“Although there Manila and Cebu have traffic that are completely different from [that of] Davao, we do have similar traffic problems. Our aim is to disseminate info to the local developers so they can create solutions to transit problems,” she said. — VC, GMA News
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