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The 5G For Change
Hackathon

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that life needs some hacking. So for the first time in the history of The Webby Awards, we invite you to the 5G for Change Hackathon. There’s no shortage of things that need to be fixed. 5G is an invaluable tool in that pursuit—speed, access, and real-world change for the better.

Build something for change. Win a Webby and $50,000.

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Presented By:Verizon

26th Annual Webby Awards

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“Whose Metaverse?” Wants to Bridge the Gap for Diverse Makers

As a finalist team, their pitch is to create maker spaces in underserved communities, using 5G, to bridge a gap in technology. Learn more about the team and their project pitched during The Webby Awards’ 5G for Change Hackathon, presented by Verizon.
Gabo Arora and Amar Bakshi of the "Whose Metaverse?" team at the 5G for Change Hackathon. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

Amar Bakshi is drumming up an image of teenagers or 20-something year olds sitting in a garage experimenting—pulling and tearing gadgets apart and putting them back together. 

“A lot of the creators who made the current Internet did so by tinkering with tech in their parents’ garage,” he said before launching into the harsh reality of tech access. “Most of the world doesn’t have the kind of garage like that, parents with the knowledge to do that, or access to social capital.” 

He and his teammate Gabo Arora were pitching an idea to connect underrepresented creators around the world to have the same access as these—all white and male—tech giants. They delivered this pitch as one of five finalist teams selected to participate in The Webby Awards’ first 5G for Change Hackathon!

Gabo Arora stood for questions from the judges during the 5G for Change Hackathon on April 29th. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

Presented by Verizon, the hackathon challenged teams to tackle an important issue, and solve it by using 5G and the Internet. Out of 150 submissions, only five teams were selected to pitch before a judging panel of industry leaders, from Verizon, MIT Solve, the Black Ambition Opportunity Fund and Stagewell Global, on April 29th at Verizon’s headquarters in New York City!

The winning team will be announced at the 26th Annual Webby Awards on May 16th, and will be awarded $50,000. Learn more about this team and their project.

Mike Wente, Felecia Hatcher, Christian Guirnalda and Alex Amouyel judged pitches during the 5G for Change Hackathon. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

Team Whose Metaverse? 

Topic: Metaverse Makerspace x Underrepresented Youth

Web3 has dominated recent conversations in tech, inspiring tech companies and individuals alike to focus their efforts on creating. While this is ushering in a new era of decentralization, making and digital collaboration, many of the creators with the access and resources to tap into this are largely white, male, and affluent. As Arora noted, “Creators have not been diverse.” 

Their plan is to bridge the digital divide by creating a “metaverse makerspace, turning today’s underrepresented youth into creators rather than passive consumers of technology,” according to their pitch. 

Their solution is to build “5G Portals,” which are “smart” shipping containers outfitted with the hardware and software needed for creators to experiment and learn new Web3 skills. Each portal would also be equipped with 5G, allowing for “greater computation” and allowing students who have historically lacked this level of access, to connect with other makers in the world. “We want to create a global infrastructure of these metaverse garages so that everyone can become a maker in the Web3,” said Arora.  

They had already created test sites for the 5G Portals in cities like Milwaukee, Harlem, New York and Baltimore. The long term goal is to create a global network of over 1,000 portals around the world in partnership with schools, museums and other public institutions to increase free access to the sites.  

Arora and Bakshi were motivated to pursue this project to inject a level of humanity back into tech. “Tech that isn’t tied to humanity isn’t going to get us where we need to go,” said Bakshi.   

Amar Bakshi and Gabo Arora being interviewed on their pitch. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

About the Team 

As a group of four, they have been collaborating for years after meeting at The United Nations. Learn more about the “Whose Metaverse?” team: 

Gabo Arora is a VR and AR pioneer, and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. There, he founded the first degree program on immersive storytelling and conducts cutting edge research on technology and empathy. He also runs LightShed.io., a multi-award winning studio that is poised to inspire the next generation with a skill set for creation and artistic expression.  

Amar Bakshi founded Shared Studios, which has a network of shipping containers that are digital and focus on elevating the global conversation on issues of great importance. 

Lauren Arora Hutchinson is often found on the radio and podcasts. She regularly produces features for the BBC radio and hosted season one of the podcast Stroke of Genius. She loves making long and short form audio documentaries. Whether that is in a linear or immersive way, as long as the emphasis is on what we are hearing. She founded the immersive audio studio Sunday Blue.

Barry Pousman is an award-winning director, producer and digital strategist focused on the future of media, growing audiences, and social change. Barry is currently heading up content at Glowforge and is the Lead Producer at LightShed.io. Over the years he has transformed storytelling using Virtual and Augmented Reality at Discovery Channel, the Institute for the Future, and the U.N.

Learn more about the 5G for Change Hackathon, and see the other finalists: Team Mayday, Team Frame Perfect, Team MRM and Team DataScape. The winning team will be announced on stage during the 26th Annual Webby Awards on Monday, May 16. 

Follow #Webbys to see who will this first-ever award at the 26th Annual Webby Awards, hosted by Roy Wood Jr. Catch the moment on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok or at webbyawards.com on Monday, May 16 at 9pm EDT. 

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