In December 2020, TCS’ Middle East and Africa geography saw the launch of its first hackathon. It focused on Middle Eastern countries with a challenge to build an Arabic Conversational System leveraging TCS Knadia (TCS Chatbot) and Votek – an automatic speech recognition (ASR) system, and a TCS COIN™ partner. Over 67 associates from product, development, R&D, and the enterprise joined forces, forming 24 teams with the challenge of building and creating an innovative product to provide hands-on experience with TCS IP and COIN partner assets.
Setting It Up
Multiple units from the TCS ecosystem came together to integrate and build this entire process in order that participants could register, and juries could evaluate seamlessly. TCS iON™ was integrated with AWS to support the participants in coding and developing the conversational system.
TCS Pace Port™ Amsterdam and the TCS AWS business unit played key roles in making available infrastructure for the hackathon. Furthermore, all the necessary open-source software and IP assets required for development were made available with APIs in the MEA innovation portal. Each participant worked and collaborated via a virtual machine.
The Days of the Contest
The five-day hackathon brought together a diverse group of people of varied nationalities from across TCS, with 35% of these being women. The participants had to build a conversation system over the first four days and submit it to the jury on the final day.
Long hours were spent designing the front-end UI, integrating the chatbot and ASR, training the bot in two languages (English and Arabic), creating the capability for it to accept requests in two formats (text and voice), and customizing the software for the use case chosen.
The jury, comprising two panels from TCS worldwide, assessed the solutions produced in two streams on the fifth day and selected teams advanced to the final evaluation stage, where finalists and winners were chosen.
What the participants gained via the exercise was a unique experience to build and deliver in a competitive and time-bound environment, assets and use cases specific to the MEA region. Following the hackathon, participants delivered two live customer proofs of concept.
“Apart from promoting collaborative problem solving and skill-building, hackathons have become an important aspect of product development. I was happy to see associates thoroughly enjoying themselves in understanding our IP and COIN assets and working with them creatively. A good initiative launched by MEA in collaboration with Pace Port Amsterdam. I hope we can replicate this across regions,” TCS CTO K Ananth Krishnan said, acknowledging the success of the event.