The 2019 American Chamber of Commerce’s Future Leaders Hackathon took place over the course of three days, from 7 – 9 February 2019. The Hackathon was hosted at DCU at its St. Patrick's Campus, Dublin and the event was organised by the American Chamber of Commerce partnership with the DCU Ryan Academy and DCU Business School. I represented Ronan Daly Jermyn at this event, in which over 100 individuals participated, representing over 80 American Chamber member companies.

A ‘Hackathon’ for those unfamiliar with the concept (as I was when I was first asked to attend), is an event in which a large number of people gather together with the aim of ideating, developing and pitching a new concept or product which will address a need, achieve a stated goal or promote a cause or purpose. This year, the aim of the Hackathon was to “create an innovative, practical and applicable solution that enhances Ireland as a great place to live and work – in more distributed, international, remote and dynamic environments - in the office, at home, and on the move.”

At the beginning of the Hackathon every participant had the opportunity to pitch an idea to their fellow attendees as to how to achieve this aim. There was no shortage of ideas from the future leaders present, with over 50 solutions proposed. Ultimately, the top 12 ideas were chosen by popular vote, and those in attendance sorted themselves into cognitively diverse, multi-disciplinary, cross-sector teams to hack a solution to the challenge we had been set. What followed was a whirlwind 54 hours. In that time each team had to ideate, develop, and refine the team’s solution, ultimately pitching the idea to the attendees, representatives of the American Chamber, and the judges. The pitch took the form of a presentation/role play, where team members set out in creative and entertaining ways how their solution would enhance Ireland as a great place to live and work.

My team, called OpenLaw A.I., sought to create an easy to understand, accessible and free online platform to assist people in having a better understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities. The OpenLaw A.I. platform we envisioned would be driven by an artificial intelligence software that would be able to interact with the human feeding it information, and deliver easy to understand, reliable information to each individual, with the information tailored to that individual’s specific query or issue and presented in the native language of the user. Legal advice is prohibitively expensive in Ireland, and the waiting lists for free legal advice in civil matters provided by services such as FLAC grow year on year. OpenLaw A.I. sought to leverage recent developments in artificial intelligence as well as data analysis to create a platform that made the Irish public, especially those moving to Ireland from other countries, who may not be able to easily access the legal information they require. My team did not win in what was an incredibly strong field. Nevertheless, I was very proud of the hard work that my team displayed over the course of 54 exciting, exhausting hours in creating our solution to making Ireland a great place to live and work.

Attending the Hackathon was a valuable lesson in understanding the levels of human ingenuity as teams of people, strangers up until that point, worked together closely and tirelessly in order to develop a solution to the question posed by the Hackathon. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience meeting so many different people from a vast array of companies operating in Ireland over the course of the Hackathon. It was a challenging and intense experience but one that was equally rewarding.

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