At RHoK #2 Berlin last December, Caritas Germany posted a disaster mapping problem definition. A team of hackers in Berlin responded by building a prototype real-time mapping application during the course of the RHoK weekend. Three months and many volunteer hours later, that app was put to use on the ground in Caritas' relief efforts in Japan following the Sendai earthquake. Guest blogger Shoaib Burq tells the story:
As developers living in Berlin many of us work at the cutting edge of technology. Each day we push against the limits of technical innovation. At bars, cafes and restaurants in Berlin you are likely to overhear things like: “the DAU is now over 2 million”. That’s Daily Active Users (DAUs) for those unfamiliar with the inner-workings of this digital economy. Just the other day I saw a graph of unprecedented growth in users that a company in Berlin called Wooga has seen. Here it is:
The graph says it all. It requires great skill and competence to build technology that can handle such rapid growth.
So it is with this in mind that both the tech communities in Berlin and the experts from the fields of disaster response, NGOs and welfare organisations are gearing up to take advantage of an opportunity to sit together at RHoK over a weekend to solve technical challenges faced by organisations doing humanitarian work.
Sometimes the work done over the RHoK weekend can lead to longer term collaborations as was the case with Caritas Germany. Caritas participated in RHoK #2 last year as sponsors for the first time. After RHoK, the proof-of-concept mapping application developed during the two days of hacking went on to receive a lot more attention and love from both the developers and Caritas staff.
In fact when the tragic earthquake in Japan happened Caritas used the mapping application internally to visualize and share data on their response. Below are just some of the highlights of the brilliant work that Caritas carried out during the relief operations.
Some of the Relief Items Distributed between March 13th and 26th, tracked by the mapping application:
3,600 pieces Nutrition supplements
20,000 pieces Sweet-bean cake
3,400 units Sleeping Bags
20,000 pieces Underwear/clothes
5,000 pieces Hand Warmers
52,000 packages Paper Diapers
13,000 packages Sanitary Items for Ladies
Baby products (baby food, utensils, baby bottles, pacifiers, baby slings, etc.)
Miscellaneous (towels, portable radios, portable stoves, gloves, tissue paper, stationary, etc.)
Caritas have returned this year as sponsors and will be looking to improve the platform that was developed at the first RHoK. Here are some screenshots from the current application.
RHoK is completely run by volunteers with sponsorship by international and local organisations and companies. This year once again we have a great team working very hard to make the event a success. The venue in Berlin is The Betahaus and the event is on 3rd and 4th of June. So don’t forget to register here.
I will be attending the event to help with both hacking but also presenting the problem statement on the behalf of Caritas Germany. If you are interested in knowing more about Caritas Germany’s project before the event check out this problem statement or contact me. Lastly SpacialDB is also supporting the event and providing developers access to their cloud geospatial database. The goal of this initiative is to let developers save time and quickly get the computational and storage resources needed to solve the problems they are working on. I am looking forward to a great weekend of hacking for good.