International perspectives tackle bushfires, floods

Students from seven different nations have combined to tackle one of the most dangerous and costly threats facing Australia at this year’s GovHack.

Mitigating the ravaging impact of bushfires and floods is one of the most urgent challenges facing authorities after a sequence of extreme weather events in recent years.

One answer would be to harness the collective ingenuity that only a jumble of international students can provide.

Diverse perspectives helped a multi-national team to contend for the top prize at GovHack, an international competition hosted by ACU where participants used open data creatively to combat an array of challenges.

Yusuke Saito was one of six ACU students in the eight-member team.

From Fukushima, Japan, Yusuke arrived in Sydney in 2020 and spent much of his first two years in the country in Covid-19 lockdown.

He had previously completed undergraduate and masters degrees in biology, and worked in the medical industry, before switching his focus to a Master of Information Technology at ACU’s North Sydney Campus.

As his English improved during the course of his studies, he discovered his blend of knowledge and experience was a major asset.

“I realised I had IT knowledge and felt that was something I could use,” he said.

“Coming to Australia at the same time as Covid-19 was challenging and I had to study a lot online. But I’m now into my last semester and I’ve got no regrets. I plan to stay after graduation and use my qualification to look for work in A.I.”

Nigerian Sunny Okoligwe, also in the final semester of a Master of IT degree at ACU, was part of the team that accessed the National Freight Data Hub to build a website containing information about road conditions, congestion, and flood and bushfire maps.

The website has enormous potential for freight operators to plan for the impact of road closures from natural disasters.

“Different people bring different perspectives,” Sunny said. “We had a team member from Switzerland whose speciality was coding. Mine’s in computer science so it was great to combine all those skills and apply theories.”

Since GovHack, three of the ACU representatives have been offered casual paid internship opportunities.

The other members of the ACU team were Roman Boegli (Switzerland), Bas Abboodi (Iraq), Liam Wood (USA), Nixon Kosgei (Kenya), Conan Williams and Kayden Anderson (both Australia).

Among the speakers at GovHack were New South Wales Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government The Hon Victor Dominello and ACU Deputy Provost Professor Chris Lonsdale.

ACU has international students from more than 100 countries including Nepal, Kenya, India, Vietnam, China and the Philippines, who contribute significantly to the cultural diversity of its seven campuses and bring a depth and breadth of experience to student life.

Students from Kenya accounted for the largest proportion of international students who commenced their studies at ACU in Semester 2, 2022.

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