As India steps into the digital era with 108 crore people owning cellphones and 112 crore holding Aadhaar cards, innovation would be the only way upward, said HRD minister Prakash Javadekar as he flagged off the Smart India Hackathon on Saturday.

Javadekar said this data reflected India’s capacity to absorb technology and hence, quoting the PM, he said we were now living in a “new India”. The 36-hour-long competition will have young engineering students design digital solutions for real-world problems.

Various departments and ministries have identified 598 problems to which 7,531 teams, consisting of around 44,000 students, responded. Of these, 1,266 teams of 10,000 students from 28 states were shortlisted for the finale that was held in 26 cities on Saturday.

“The youth has shown its energy,” said Javadekar. “Even a small innovation can make such a huge difference to life.” Chief judge and IIT-B professor Deepak Phatak asked students to put their best foot forward and not treat this as a mere competition. “Te am work, adjustment, meeting deadlines, quality work, communication skills and even a semester of classes will not give you all this experience,” said Phatak.

Some of the problems from the department of atomic energy includes a mobile application that can be used as a tool to educate people that we live in a radioactive world, and radiation has always been around us as a part of our natural environment.

Some problems include one from the railways ministry about the condition of tracks, which is critical for safe train operations.