RHoK Around the World

December 5, 2011 - 14:12 -- Random Hacks of...


This weekend close to 1000 people gathered worldwide for RHoK Global to hack for humanity in 28 cities around the world.  (6 additional cities participated in RHoK-affiliated Developing Latin America hackathons this same weekend.)  Tel Aviv kicked off RHoK Global on Friday morning and 60 hours and thousands of tweets later, hackers in San Francisco and Portland wrapped up the event with more than 90 hacks submitted globally.

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.

  • 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.


RHoK Pretoria

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 Bangalore


  • 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 Oxford


  • 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


  • 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.  

  • 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 Warsaw

  • 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.


RHoK Berlin


  • 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.

  • 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.


RHoK Belgium


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.