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VMware Ideas Hackathon to Drive Diversity and Inclusion Through Technology
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by Aron Raj, Journalist

In his keynote address at the VMware CIO Forum at St.Regis Hotel Singapore, Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, spoke about the importance of having tech for good. He believes that technology can’t be defined as good or bad but has to be seen as neutral. Nevertheless, he hopes that someday, technology can be used for the greater good of humanity.

Speaking on diversity and inclusion, Pat said, “When people feel comfortable with bringing their whole selves to work, that is when diversity is most powerful.”

Relating to his childhood growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania, Pat spoke about how the cultural impact he faced when he moved from the farm to working in San Francisco. Today, VMware has offices all over the world with staff from a wide variety of cultures.

To make diversity, inclusivity and technology work hand in hand, VMware organised its inaugural Ideas Hackathon, where three teams were picked from a field of 11 teams to harness technology as a force for good. A total of 11 teams comprising 53 developers, coders, designers and tech enthusiasts from across the education, business and technology sectors took part in the Hackathon, conceptualising creative ideas with technology at their core to make Singapore a more inclusive society for members of the special needs community.

With an objective of bringing together like-minded organisations and individuals to build a technology platform that helps students from the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) strengthen their social, numeracy and vocational skills, the Ideas Hackathon embodies VMware’s EPIC2 (Execution, Passion, Integrity, Customers and Community) values and Tech for Good corporate purpose, with the aim of building an inclusive and caring society in Singapore.

Mentored by industry experts from VMware and in consultation with APSN partners, Team Flippers from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Infocomm Technology (ICT), comprising of four members – Ernest Lim, Joel Tio, Lim Jiale and Liu Wai Ho, emerged as the overall winner after a gruelling six-hour design and pitching process. The winning solution, called “Connect Us”, aims to serve as a social networking platform for the special needs community, students, alumni and potential employers to connect, exchange views as well as to improve the employment-matching process.

“This being our first-ever hackathon, we found it an exhilarating process going from ideation to several rounds of brainstorming and finally pitching to the judges all in a matter of hours,” said Team Flippers. They will now have three months to fully develop and launch their mobile application in time for VMware’s vForum Singapore in August.

“The idea of “Connect Us” will go a long way in helping the special needs community overcome common challenges faced in their daily lives. To us, the biggest winner today is the special needs community in Singapore, as the Ideas Hackathon has shown us just how powerful technology can be in serving the greater good of humanity,” said Dr Christopher Tay, CEO of APSN.

Pat met with the winning team, congratulating them on their success and looked forward to seeing more “tech for good” solutions in the future.

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