Students win hackathon for plan to help SMEs post-COVID-19 recovery

23 June 2020
Business and arts students have won first place in the Australia/New Zealand regional competition of Call for Code, working with IBM to plan a one-stop-shop to help small and medium-sized enterprises recover from COVID-19.

‘Business Buddy’ is the brainchild of two University of Sydney students - Josh Mok (Commerce/Laws) and Jagen Yoon (Arts/Laws) – which won them the regional competition of Call for Code over the weekend.

Currently in its third year, Call for Code is a global challenge to create practical, effective, and high-quality applications based on IBM Cloud services that can have an immediate and lasting impact on humanitarian issues. 

Josh Mok and Jagen Yoon.

Competing teams could choose from two streams: solutions to address the impact of climate change or solutions to mitigate the impact of global pandemics like COVID-19 on communities most in need.

Josh and Jagen are part of the Business School’s Dalyell Scholars program. Working together with founding partner of the competition, IBM, Josh and Jagen proposed ‘Business Buddy’, a single point of contact for Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to map their financial recovery from COVID-19.

“Despite tremendous efforts during COVID-19, grants and support services for SMEs were scattered across government websites and multiple agencies. As such, SMEs still had to research, seek and apply for these benefits, which could be a frustrating and time-consuming process,” explained Jagen.

Their vision and creativity illustrate the graduate qualities that are highly valued by top employers and what we need in tomorrow’s leaders.
Professor Greg Whitwell, Business School Dean

"To address this complex issue, we proposed using AI to help SMEs adapt and grow in the post-COVID-19 era. Using IBM’s Watson Virtual Assistant technology, we prototyped a one-stop-shop for all business-related enquiries," said Josh.

"Our ‘Business Buddy’ prototype analyses all available and applicable grants and services and presents these opportunities directly to SMEs - helping them save time and valuable resources."

The multi-disciplinary team competed against six teams to take out the top gong. Another Business Dalyell team were awarded an honourable mention for ‘Recharged’.

Students Kim Nguyen (Commerce/Laws), Connor Russell (Engineering/Commerce) and Liam Mills (Engineering/Commerce) proposed a sharing platform to make it more convenient for people to charge their electric vehicles and commercialise private charging stations, boosting the uptake of electric cars and ultimately reducing carbon emissions.

Jagen and Josh presenting at the Australia/New Zealand Call for Code competition.

The two teams will work closely with IBM and the Dalyell Program Director at the Business School, Dr Sandra Seno-Alday to prepare for the global competition on 31 July.

“Our students will be competing against other university students, professional developers and technology consultants from around the world,” said Dr Seno-Alday. 

Dean of the Business School, Professor Greg Whitwell, said: “We are immensely proud of our students’ achievements as they contribute to crafting solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. Their vision and creativity illustrate the graduate qualities that are highly valued by top employers and what we need in tomorrow’s leaders.”

The global judging panel includes 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori.

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