Hack4Ideas - a joint initiative between Microsoft, Central European University, the College of Europe (CoE), and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) - took place on November 5th at the Microsoft Center Brussels.
The overall hackathon theme was the Future of Europe in the Digital Era. Ten teams, each consisting of three students (one per university), worked on developing policy solutions for areas included in Microsoft’s Five Ideas for the Next Five Years manifesto: digital inclusion; artificial intelligence and ethics; digital peace; fight against crime and protect citizen’s fundamental rights and tech & climate change.
The Digital Peace team, comprising CEU’s Hao Cui, Vittoria Durazzano (Sciences Po) and Lorenzo Revello (CoE), took first place with their project “Cybersecurity of the people, by the people, for the people”.
The project aims to create an ecosystem that encourages civic engagement to promote Digital Peace. The initiative is based on an online open-source website that helps citizens comprehend and be aware of potential state-sponsored and individual attacks. The platform will consist of two distinct sections: a gamification section promoting cyber awareness and a Wikipedia-like, crowdsourcing informative section, for threat-information and knowledge sharing.
Initially formed in September, the teams worked on the projects until November—with the help of two mentors--when they presented their projects to the judging panel at an event in Brussels.
“We had several initial ideas that we gave up following advice from our mentors. In the end, we concentrated on a gamification platform, to allow regular citizens to learn about cybersecurity, plus the crowdsourced information section” Cui explained. “As a result, we hope people will be inspired to build a culture of security awareness inside their communities, offline as well as on,” she said.
“This would be a crowdsourced platform where people could also share what types of attacks they experienced and how to react to them. We see this as a platform by the people, for the people. However, it also involves working with leading technology companies who would provide the technical basis for the gamification platform” she added.
Cui has been living in Hungary for 5 years. Before starting her PhD studies at CEU, she was a student at ELTE. She is currently studying Weibo, the “Chinese Twitter” and the ranking dynamics of popular topics on the site.
She says that she enjoyed the hackathon because she had to cooperate with students from fields different from her. “My background is in mathematics, and most of the others came from political sciences and such areas. It was a great experience to learn from them.” Microsoft created the teams so that students from different universities and different research fields would have to work together.
“Normally I just do programming, I don’t think much about the policies, so this was an experience where I had to think out-of-the-box” Cui explained.
Cui also pointed it out that the students from all other participating universities were European - only CEU put forward international participants. “I was the only Chinese among the participants, and the only one from maths.” CEU students from Myanmar and Bangladesh also participated in the hackathon.
“We showed how international CEU was!”