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Mr Gabriel Kang (image - screen capture from Channel NewsAsia)

Hackathon to boot out unscrupulous retailers

Mr Gabriel Kang (image - screen capture from Channel NewsAsia)
Mr Gabriel Kang (image - screen capture from Channel NewsAsia)

He is now famous for raising S$15,000 for Mr Pham Van Thoa, a Vietnamese tourist who was allegedly scammed at Sim Lim Square, when Mr Pham was made to pay S$1,500 in warranty for an iPhone 6 he had bought for S$950.

Now, Mr Kang is ready to take his campaign to the next level, by launching a hackathon to brainstorm ideas that can protect consumers more effectively from such scams in the future.

#OperationCleanUp is currently asking for interested parties to sign up, with the date for the actual hackathon to be confirmed later. The sign-up page stated:

"The recent cases of tourists being cheated at Sim Lim Square has highlighted the need for new solutions and methods to protect tourists and Singaporeans. Between CASE and vigilantism, we believe the community can help contribute new ideas and solutions to make Singapore a better place for us all. Instead of just complaining, let's do something about it!"

Mr Kang felt that the online and offline vigilantism by some are “going about it the wrong way”. “Those methods might work for one shop, but they aren't scalable to all of Singapore,” he was reported by media as saying.

Himself a technopreneur, Mr Kang believes that it is now time for the community to take over. "Between CASE and vigilantism, we believe the community can help contribute new ideas and solutions to make Singapore a better place for us all," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Mr Kang with Mr Pham and friends.
Mr Kang with Mr Pham and friends.

The Sim Lim Square case involving Mr Pham and company Mobile Air had created quite a stir among politicians, with at least two Members of Parliament expected to raise the issue during the next sitting of Parliament.

CASE has also been involved, but there has been no actual progress thus far in terms of steps to prevent such instances from happening in the future, and to mitigate the impact on business trust in Singapore.

As it is, two embassies have already issues notices to their citizens residing in Singapore to be wary of such scams.

#OperationCleanUp is Mr Kang's way of getting to the solution quickly and effectively, as it can “bring together the smartest people in Singapore to think up solutions that otherwise would never exist,” he said. “We are the best problem solvers in the community.”

While hackathons have traditionally been the domain of technology junkies, Mr Kang stressed that #OperationCleanUp is not exculsively so. "This is for anyone who wants to make a difference. You don't have to be a programmer to have brilliant ideas."

"The Government is welcome to 'steal' our ideas and execute it," he added.