Chinhoyi university student who hacked the system to upgrade results to represent Zimbabwe.

A Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) student who hacked the university’s results database and upgraded his and seven other students’ grades is to represent Zimbabwe at a global technology summit in Switzerland.

Twenty-year-old Tatenda Christopher Chinyamakobvu is one of three students who aced a hackathon competition staged by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) in Kadoma recently.

Together with Munyaradzi Muneka, and Elvin Kakomo, they developed an application that can be used to detect the occurrence of an accident, its magnitude and location to assist emergency responders.

His success came with a ticket to the #Hack4SmartSustainableCities conference organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which runs from April 5-6 in Geneva during the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) Forum.

During a hackathon, 50 to 100 coders or a data experts assemble in teams of between four to six people to imagine and create a solution for a defined problem. They collaborate during the time of the hackathon, usually 24 to 48 hours, to develop their ideas as far as possible in the hope that it can develop into something viable and useful. Sometimes they even produce a prototype.

This year’s challenge is to identify and support innovative solutions to address cities’ challenges globally.

Chinyamakobvu’s selection to represent Zimbabwe emerged when his lawyer this week applied for his bail conditions to be relaxed, after the student was arrested and charged with eight counts of hacking.

Lawyer Tungamirai Chamutsa asked a Chinhoyi magistrate to alter Chinyamakobvu’s reporting conditions to the police, and to release his passport to enable him to prepare and travel for the summit.

The lawyer argued that Chinyamakobvu was not a flight risk as the state was catering for his travel expenses and stay in Switzerland.

The application was granted.

Prosecutors say Chinyamakobvu, a Level 2.2 Information and Technology student, first hacked into the CUT computers after failing a module during the August to December 2018 semester. To avoid a resit, he hacked into the university computer system and gave himself a pass.

He did the same for seven other students, charging anything between US$20 and US$80.

The system breach was noticed in January this year when the CUT Information Communication Technology director reportedly discovered that Chinyamakobvu had cooked his results.

By Tony Karombo

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