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Updated: March 4, 2021

Maine co-launches international hackathon to help rural regions recover from pandemic

Courtesy / A screenshot from a video invites Mainers and others to participate in the “Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead!” brainstorming competition.

A 48-hour brainstorming competition hosted by Maine and six North Atlantic countries is offering cash and business development opportunities for big ideas related to rural recovery.

“Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead!” will be held virtually from March 19-21, and is sponsored by the Maine North Atlantic Development Office at the Maine International Trade Center and the University of New England’s UNE North Program, in collaboration with other sponsors and the Nordic Council of Ministers and its Nordic Atlantic Cooperation agency.

Besides Maine, regions participating in the "hackathon" include Ontario, Canada; the Faroe Islands, in Denmark; and the countries of Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Scotland.

The competition asks participants from age 18-35 across the North Atlantic to come up with digital solutions for pressing challenges caused by the pandemic in the Nordic region's rural areas, according to a news release. The focus will be on providing rural health care services and planning for the sustainable recovery of rural tourism. 

Competition organizers are encouraging participation from individuals with a variety of backgrounds such as coding, design, marketing, health care, tourism and hospitality. Individuals can enter the hackathon for free, and will be assigned to international teams of four or five people with different backgrounds and skill sets to collaboratively design and test innovative ideas. 

Prizes will be awarded to teams in both the digital health and tourism recovery categories, with the first-place winner in each receiving 40,000 Danish kroner, or about $6,500.

Participants will receive a roadmap to entrepreneurship, including workshops and mentor support throughout the event, according to the news release. Mentors include Tom Rainey, executive director for the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs in Portland. Jurors include Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“Maine is honored to be the western partner of the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation and to participate in this exciting initiative for Maine’s youth and young professionals because we share NORA’s mission to make the Nordic region the most sustainable and integrated region in the world,” Dana Eidsness, director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office at MITC, said in the release.

The challenges created by the pandemic have global consequences, particularly for future generations, Gov. Janet Mills noted.  

“Maine shares more than just ocean waters with our North Atlantic neighbors,” she said in the release. “It is only fitting that young people are part of developing sustainable solutions to those challenges and creating a brighter future for us all. Maine is pleased to join our Scottish, Nordic, and Canadian partners in supporting this event.” 

For more information about “Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead!” click here.

In the early days of the pandemic last year, dozens of Mainers participated in hackathons organized by MyHealthMath and co-sponsored by the VIA Agency, SaviLinx and Cross Benefit Solutions, with support from Startup Maine and Maine Startups Insider. Among the output were several ideas that later received commercial interest.

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