From Banjul to Bangalore, from Porto Alegre to Pretoria, tech-savvy do-gooders collaborated with subject-matter experts in a wide variety of fields to build software applications for the benefit of their local communities and the world. Random Hacks of Kindness hackers came from diverse backgrounds: in addition to computer programmers, RHoK events included designers, project managers, PR and marketing professionals, UI/UX specialists, GIS mappers, and many more people volunteering their professional skills for a good cause.
Events around the world started off with anticipation high as participants followed other global locations via Ustream and Twitter and shared videos of RHoK introductions in other locations. Many events began with a Friday night meet-up and problem brainstorming session where experts and hackers began building out concepts to respond to proposed problem definitions. The experts proposing problems for RHoK Global included, among others, Oxfam, UN OCHA, Doctors Without Borders, the World Bank, InSTEDD, Ushahidi, Fragile Oasis, as well as numerous challenges posed by local, municipal and national government agencies.
Numerous hackers collaborated across RHoK locations, helping teams in other cities build their hacks. Some of those collaborations included:
- Hackers at RHoK Bogota, experienced in building the ATAOLI shelter management system from RHoK #3, gave input to team Sheltr in Philadelphia, which built a hack that lets Philadelphia homeless shelters publish the number of beds they have available in real time.
- Hackers in Montreal and Toronto worked together on WaterVoices, an app begun at the WaterHackathon RHoK Community Event in October that uses SMS to allow First Nations to alert officials to water quality issues.
- RHoK Milwaukee and RHoK Portland hackers collaborated on a hack allowing bicycle commuters to log their commutes.
- Teams at RHoK Austin, RHoK Philadelphia and RHoK San Francisco worked together on Hack2Unify, building an online collaboration platform for people and organizations working to change the world. The distributed Hack2Unify team already has plans to continue work on the hack and is talking to various potential collaborators about follow-up.
- By searching the RHoK problem sets, two teams in Portland and Boston were linked together on similar solutions for disaster awareness, SAARAA and Coordinate, to reduce duplicated efforts and increase capability for users.
- Participants and RHoK San Francisco, RHoK Toronto and RHoK Montreal all joined in a global Samoa Cyclone Simulation to support the building of the Samoan disaster preparedness system.
- A problem proposed at RHoK Manchester related to supporting farmers through seed-saving was picked up by RHoK Trento and resulted in the Seed Swap App.
RHoK Global was full of inspiring moments, fruitful collaborations, disruptive innovations and interesting anecdotes. Reports will be flowing in from around the world for many days to come. Here are just a few highlights from the weekend:
- In addition to the winning Sheltr hack at RHoK Philadelphia, which already has interest from the City’s Office of Supportive Housing, participants also built a Climate Data Aggregator tool for the World Bank, a mobile app for finding truth in campaign ads, a web tool helping voters prepare the identification they need to vote, and a Reddit-style add on to Philadelphia’s Change by Us civic action tool. RHoK Philly followed their event with an immediate debrief, and already has a follow-up meetup planned for January. Read more in this blog post and check out the follow-up article from sponsor TechnicallyPhilly.
- The winning hack at RHoK in San Francisco was Drop2Drink, an application that mapped San Francisco’s emergency drinking hydrants and other water sources. RHoKSF participants field-tested the Drop2Drink hack by heading out to pin QR codes on SF emergency drinking water hydrants, and it was all caught on video. San Francisco’s RHoK also recognized other great apps including Tin Can, a program that allows people with non-smartphones to access smartphone functionality through a phone call; D2020 a game building tool and hackathon campaign to help people build games ot change the world; and BlindSpot an app-in-development to assist teachers in improving their classroom effectiveness. Read more about RHoK San Francisco here.
RHoK San Francisco
- RHoK Bangalore participants built hacks focusing on access to jobs for unskilled workers and already has sponsors interested in incubating and fostering the development of all winning hacks. A RHoK Bangalore team also made a field trip to present RHoK to Apple Founder Steve Wozniak and get him to sign a T-shirt.
- RHoK Tel Aviv resulted in two projects focusing on accessibility issues: Appcessible targets web users with low vision or reading difficulties and Know Ahead supports the creation of a database of accessible locations within a city. Tel Aviv’s third project, Addictaid, helps out hapless Facebook addicts while simultaneously supporting good causes! Read RHoK Tel Aviv’s blog post here.
- RHoK had events in two U.K. cities this past weekend. RHoK Oxford was sponsored by Oxfam at the White October offices and included projects like a Fair Trade finder, a real world “like” button for campaigning and advocacy and a data visualization map for projects of the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
- RHoK London was convened by MyBnk and focused on building apps relating to financial illiteracy and financial exclusion among U.K. youth. Resulting hacks included Pound Around the World, an online game teaching kids purchasing power parity (PPP) by educating them on the value of a pound in different parts of the world.
- RHoK Trento teams (including a team working remotely from Maputo, Mozambique) worked on 9 different problems, from the Seed Swap App pitched at RHoK Manchester, to the Happy Bird Mobile App (begun at October’s WaterHackathon RHoK Community Event in Tel Aviv) to projects like Peer learning & peer networking for pineapple farmers, Smart urban planning, Assessing (and aggregating) beehive health, Disease / Sickness Reporting System (DSRS), Improving public transportation reliability to encourage people reduce their carbon footprint and Lost and Found. Read more about RHoK Trento in their blog post.
- RHoK NYC was co-located with a Farm Bill Hackathon happening the same weekend, and a RHoK team ended up winning prize in the Farm Bill competition as well. A team from RHoK NYC was also working on the Google Person Finder project and managed to fix three bugs in the first day of the hackathon.
- RHoK Manchester built a hack proposed by New Hampshire public radio for monitoring extreme weather events. NHPR not only contributed a challenge to RHoK, they also interviewed RHoK Manchester’s organizer from Small Dog Electronics live on radio last week. Read RHoK Manchester’s blog post here.
- The first RHoK event in Princeton, NJ resulted in 5 great projects including an app to test and treat patients remotely, a mobile phone-powered PA system, rainfall data vizualization, text based job networking in Kenya and a tag to raise awareness about the sources of retail products. Read more in RHoK Princeton’s blog post here.
- RHoK Banjul, in The Gambia built tools for tracking weather changes, like Improved Weather Data Collection & Transmission, which transmits data from weather monitoring stations nationwide to the National Meteorology Department via SMS, and Implement Humidity Slide Functionality with Software which updates Gambia’s outdated Humidity Slide Rule software to calculate dew point temperature, vapor pressure and relative humidity. Gambia’s leading microfinance institution, GAWFA, also participated in RHoK Banjul, supporting the creating of Management of Microfinance Records, a tool to increase accuracy and analysis of microloan data. Read more about RHoK Gambia in their blog post.
- RHoK Warsaw, RHoK’s first event in Poland, was a great success. Projects focused on widely varied themes from support for cancer patients, access to food coorperatives and transparency in government to bike path infrastructure, animal adoption, youth activism and air pollution. Read more in RHoK Warsaw’s blog post here.
- RHoK Berlin’s third RHoK event rallied a strong RHoK community in that city with over 60 people participating and exciting projects built, including Broken Lifts, a website providing mobility-impaired Berliners with information about subway stops made inaccessible by non-working elevators, and Offlike, “a like button for the real world” design to increase communities’ engagement in local problems.
- Participants at the first Austin, Texas RHoK event got encouragement from NASA astronaut and Fragile Oasis founder Ron Garan, onsite to pitch and hack on a problem definition of his own. RHoK Austin teams also worked on hacks with both global and local relevance including: The Ready Global App allowing Williamson County users can opt-in to receive push notifications of significant events or impending emergencies in the area; Sahana Eden, an Open Source framework to build applications for Emergency Management; Community Technology Resource Map, a project mapping existing technology resources in a common database to make it easier for users to find services; Let's Give Millions of People a Voice Who Currently Can't Speak, an open-source AAC product that allows users to add their own photographs and symbols and Tracking Student Success, which gives administrators of Breakthrough Austin (a college preparation program for low-income students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college) a tool to collect and analyze data on the students' progress. Read RHoK Austin’s blog post here.
- About 45 people participated in the first RHoK Portland event last weekend, working on 14 different projects ranging from low-cost water purity tech sensors, tracking of cell phone and wifi strengths in disaster-damaged areas and camp survey mapping through GPS, to citizen engagement with legislators and an Open211 social services directory. Read more about RHoK Portland and catch some video from the event here.
- Toronto’s third RHoK event was the most successful yet, with continued progress made on the WaterVoices project from WaterHackathon Toronto (in collaboration with RHoK Montreal) as well as apps relating to safer biking, wound triage, crowdsourced language resources, open data and building development. Read more about RHoK Toronto here.
- The RHoK Montreal’s first event was won by the aptly-named Bacteria Detecto-Droid Team for an Android app that will allow users to run a photo of bacteria plates through an image recognition software to provide easy and low-cost water monitoring, particularly in developing countries. Montreal’s other projects included peer learning and networking for pineapple farmers in Sri Lanka, security alerts for humanitarian workers in Haiti, crowdsourcing the development of underserved language resources and First Nation access to water and sanitation in Canada. Hear more about Montreal’s projects in their YouTube updates here.
- Milwaukee’s first RHoK event resulted in 7 different projects including 3 data visualization projects with a water focus: a visualization of H2OScore’s water usage data, a dashboard visualizing data from Watech of America’s complex water sensor equipment and visualizations of data published by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District. Other Milwaukee projects ranged from assessing behive health and crowdsourcing crisis events to bicycle commute mapping and a virtual simulation of aquaponics. Read more in Milwaukee’s blog post here.
- In Bogota, hackers not only collaborated with a Philadelphia team on shelter management, they also worked on a project to improve critical simulation exercises for teams learning about humanitarian response.
- At RHoK Boston, in addition to the winning Coordinate hack, which allows emergency response officials to plot hazards in an accurate and structured manner, the ATC 20 Mobile Application for Sahana and Localization Tools for e-Learning Modules (Numbers and Data Fluency) project also won recognition from the judges.
- RHoK’s first event in Belgium had a participant traveling from as far away as Paris to propose a problem and enlist hackers to work on Sigmah, a Humanitarian Project Management Open Source Software. A Belgian NGO Tumbador worked with a team to build a system that will assist them and other NGOs in event management, and another attendee built out the concept of the Osimov Project, a system to synthesize numerous input streams of information into concrete problem definitions.
Thank you to all the dedicated hackers, experts and organizers who came out to spend the weekend volunteering their time to make the world a better place. The next step is to get these hacks out into the world where they can start making a difference. We look forward to following the action and sharing updates here in the weeks to come.