The Vatican will be opening its doors to hackers in its digital environment as it launches its first-ever hackathon. Dubbed the VHacks, the event will take place from March 8 to 11 in Rome and at least 120 computer programmers, project managers and graphic designers from around the world will be joining in.
Father Eric Salobir, the founder of the Vatican's technology think tank OPTIC, has partnered with Jakub Florkiewicz of the Harvard Business School and Father Philip Larrey of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications for VHacks. The aim of the event is to "foster dialogue between the tech world and the humanities," as per Salobir.
Hackathons have been mounted in business and technology industries around the world for years. Participants with knowledge in computer programming and design compete under time constraints while tasked to find breaches and to come up with solutions to a company's digital environment.
Organizing such an event might be surprising to Catholics but Salobir believes it is a good project to introduce in the Vatican. The hackers will address problems along the three themes that the organizers defined: social inclusion, interfaith dialogue, and migrants and refugees.
"The Vatican operates different dicasteries and congregations, and each have different speeds of how they go into digital innovation," Florkiewicz said. "A hackathon might seem unexpected to be organized by a religious organization. But not until one learns about the problems 'to be hacked.'"
The organizers also said that they were inspired to mount a hackathon because of Pope Francis' first Ted Talk in 2017, where he mentioned using technology to advance social equality and inclusion. The Vatican's first-ever hackathon has also tapped big names in technology like Microsoft, Google and TIM, an Italian telecoms corporation.
VHacks will also have speakers and participants from the West Bank, including Muslims and Jews. Apart from the hacking competition, the young participants will also discuss solutions and collaborations in innovation, which will impact everyone.