Students blitz global tech competition with plan for small business support post-COVID

A multi-disciplinary team of students from the University of Sydney have taken out second place in the world’s largest ‘tech-for-good’ competition, which had over 400,000 entries.

Competing against professional developers in the IBM Global Call for Code challenge this week, the team behind Business Buddy, a one-stop shop for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), were the only university-based team in the top five.

Their success is yet more evidence that our students truly are world-class and contributing to the public good.

Professor Greg Whitwell, Dean of the Business School

The brainchild of undergraduate students Josh Mok (Commerce/Laws), Jagen Yoon (Arts/Laws), Theresa Wang (Commerce/Computing) and Andrew Esteban (Software Engineering/Arts), Business Buddy aims to bridge the gap between government resources and small businesses, particularly those that are struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The Business Buddy platform delivers personalised and responsive COVID-19 updates to small businesses, that otherwise might not have the resources to keep across the changing landscape. Using IBM apps, the platform allows SMEs to sign up for notifications and makes a preliminary determination of their eligibility for various government programs, based on their data.

Business Buddy: IBM Call for Code Submission

How Business Buddy developed at Sydney

Josh and Jagen first came up with the idea during a subject that was part of the Dalyell Scholars program in the Business School, available to high-achieving students with an ATAR (or equivalent) of 98+.

“We workshopped the idea through multiple hackathons organised by IBM, eventually winning the Regional Call for Code in June,” they said.

“We were ecstatic when the result was announced. It was amazing for us to be recognised for presenting a solution that we think can greatly help the community as it deals with COVID-19.”

While Jagen primarily worked on designing the system, Josh progressed the business case, Theresa developed the chatbot and Andrew wrote the code for the website and backend, which is entirely open source.

With the help of IBM the Linux Foundation and the Dalyell Scholars program, the team hopes to get the wider development community to help build on Business Buddy, to make it bigger and better.

“We’d especially like to thank Dr. Sandra Seno-Alday for all the support she gave the team from day one. Without her, it’s probably likely we wouldn’t have submitted at all. We also want to thank all the developers from IBM who gave up their time to help workshop our ideas and provide technical support,” they said.

Students show what leadership for good is

“The competition was a tough and challenging one. Our inspiring Dalyell students have shown us that with vision, drive, and resilience, it is possible to make a tangible contribution to changing the world for good. We’re very proud of their remarkable achievement,” said Dr Sandra Seno-Alday, Director of the Dalyell Program at the Business School.

Professor Greg Whitwell, Dean of the Business School, said: “This is a brilliant result for which we have cause to be enormously proud. The fact that our students and staff have not only persisted through the challenges of the pandemic but managed to create and collaborate on an innovative project is testament to them and the supportive environment at the Business School.

“Their success is yet more evidence that our students truly are world-class and contributing to the public good.”

Another University of Sydney team was among the top five university finalists. Rechargd is an electric vehicle sharing platform that connects household owners of charging stations to drivers wanting to recharge their cars.

The team commenced their work through the Business Dalyell program in May this year.

Call for Code is the largest tech-for-good global competition of its kind. The competition was created by the David Clark Cause, with its founding partner IBM and charitable partner the United Nations. The 2020 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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