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First Vatican Hackathon seeks solutions to real problems

VATICAN CITY – The first Vatican ‘Hackathon’ gets underway on 8 Mar 2018 with a press conference showcasing the Church’s willingness and desire to embrace technological development.

The event brings together 120 university students from around the world to create technological solutions to real-world problems related to interfaith dialogue, social inclusion, and migrants and refugees.

Combining Christian values with technological development to solve global problems, the Vatican Hackathon received enthusiastic support from Pope Francis and the various offices of the Holy See.

Msgr Lucio Ruiz, Secretary of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, launched the event at a press conference on Thursday. He said Pope Francis was enthusiastic from the beginning about hosting a Vatican Hackathon, saying “Yes, we must do it!”

A Hackathon (combining the words ‘hacking’ and ‘marathon’) hosts university students from different disciplines who collaborate under a time constraint to create solutions to current global problems.

The Vatican event will ask 120 students from 30 countries to address the issues of social inclusion, interfaith dialogue, and the challenges facing migrants and refugees. Over the course of 36 hours on 8-11 March, the teams of business, design, and engineering students will seek to create a project, which leverages technology to provide a solution to a concrete problem. Solutions can come in the form of applications, websites, platforms, products, or new initiatives.

Msgr Ruiz said, besides the Pope’s enthusiasm, the Vatican Secretariat of State was positive about the project and quickly allowed “Vatican” to be added to event.  Msgr Ruiz said this event demonstrates how seamlessly faith, science, and technology work together for the good of all people.

Another presenter, Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, Director of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, said the Church has always embraced technology.

“In case you think this Vatican Hackathon is an unusual invention,” he said, “let me just mention that we Jesuits, Dominicans, and Franciscans and others embraced the printing press in the 16th century and did much the same with it as we’re hoping to do with technology today.”

Fr Czerny said the event follows the “long tradition of the Church, learning to use what God has inspired his people to invent.”

Projects will be judged based on how well the technology employed advances socio-economic development and the extent to which moral and ethical challenges related to new technologies were taken into consideration.

One major goal of the Vatican Hackathon is to promote Christian values within technology and business sectors around the world.

The event is sponsored by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and OPTIC,  an international network of research and innovation dedicated to ethical issues of disruptive technologies. – Devin Watkins, Vatican News

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