A lot has changed since I last blogged about Taarifa. We have been the recipient of a World Bank Innovation Fund grant and are going through the Geeks Without Bounds Humanitarian Accelerator. Work is really kicking off in earnest now and if you follow the project you will see much happening over the next two months.
In order to improve the platform and grow the community we are running a number hackathons around the world. You are hereby cordially invited to come hack on data, software (front and back end), hardware, and all the bits between in
There’s not much in the way of access to clean water in Tanzania. In the informal settlements, there are a bunch of water points, but many of them are broken. Rather than a continual process of putting in new ones, the local water engineers want to fix the existing ones – but they don’t know where the broken points are. This also prevents large-scale response organizations from accurately deploying resources (and seeing what initiatives are already working).
Last weekend I organized the fourth edition of the Random Hacks of Kindness event in Southampton, UK. Again we were the only event in the UK, and this time it seemed even the only one in Europe. We had some excellent and relevant problem statements lined up and registrations came in nicely.
I was therefore quite surprised that the percentage of people that actually showed up was lower than usual. Together with the fact that one of the main domain experts (Ivan Gayton from MSF) was no longer able to make it in person had me a bit worried. However, it turned out this was really a blessing in disguise.
I’m happy to announce that Random Hacks of Kindness will be coming to Southampton for the 4th time! Again with help from Alejandro Saucedo and HackaSoton.
During the weekend of 6-7 December 2013, The University of Southampton will be one of the satellite cities as part of the global Random Hacks of Kindness Event!
See below for the problem statements. This time around Im particularly interested in any UAV related problems.
Twitter hashtag: #rhoksoton
We are proud and very grateful to be supported by Enterprise and Digital Economy at the University of Southampton, Microsoft Gadgeteer, Business Analyst Mentor, ScanToSecure, and ATASS.
I have attended quite a few hackathons in the past and been an active organizer of RHoK events (and more recently NodeCopter events) for some time now. However, while they have always catered well to my computer science/programming side I usually found my science & engineering side left wanting. I have been toying with the idea of organizing something that crosses both fields but would need a partner in crime to put it together. I simply have too much going on already.
I was therefore very happy to see the announcement of the Inventorthon event, run by the Satellite Applications Catapult in Oxford. With challenges ranging from drone scavenger hunts and shipping container tracking, to micro-satellite propulsion systems (by one of the Pocket Spacecraft guys) it seemed refreshing.
Its 23:06 as I type this on the train on the way back from the second UK DataDive. I attended the first one in October last year after hearing about DataKind on rce-cast. In a nutshell DataKind are a non-profit who work together with charities, NGO’s and related organizations to help them collect, manage, and analyze data so they can be more effective. So its like RHoK but focused on data analysis and with a stronger sustainability angle.
I have good memories from the last one and the turnout and organization was very similar this time around. Like last time I could only make it for the Saturday and my employer was kind enough to cover travel costs. Charities selected to participate were:
I have always been a fan of autonomous flying machines, particular their civilian applications, and through my past work at the University I have been fortunate to be able to work on the design and building of UAVs. I have also been a keen attender of various meetups and hackathons .
I was therefore immediately sold when I heard about the Node Copter concept: getting together and see what you can make a Parrot AR Drone do by the end of the day using node.js. Best explained by video:
I got in touch with Benjie (from So Make It) and Andy Nesbitt (who has run a number of these) asking them if they were interested in helping organize one in Southampton.
Both responded with a “hell yeah!” and after some prep Im happy to announce that you
can should sign up on the Eventbrite page:
The event will be held at the makerspace itself. There is a small attendance charge to avoid people signing up but not turning up.
Some prior coding experience (in whatever language) is required.
See you there!
For the 5th time globally and for the 3rd time in Southampton, 30+ cities came together over the past weekend to work on problems related to humanity and the environment. Even though I had already organized the last two Random Hacks of Kindness events, setting up this one proved much more challenging due to changes in my professional life and a recent family extension.
However, helped by Alejandro of HackaSoton, the the awesome DigiChamps (Olja, Nader) and Dominic from SUSU.tv we still managed to pull it off. Exams still in full swing meant the turnout was lower than expected but, as I always say, the good people were there.
We had a number problem statements from Medecins Sans Frontieres (through Ben Holt), as well as from Konekta (through Mark Herringer), and, of course, Taarifa. Three teams started working but only two made it through the whole weekend. The first was Mindful Music, led by Mark Blackwell, and worked on music therapy for Alzheimers. The second was on Taarifa and they were working remotely from the Hub in London.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by somebody from Google who asked if I was interested in running a demo booth at their upcoming Zeitgeist Europe conference in London. This was triggered by my involvement in Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) and the plan was to showcase some of the work that came out of RHoK events.
It being an internal event there is little information about it online. But its invite-only, high profile nature made it a unique opportunity to show the tech elite what can be achieved when applying technology to social, humanitarian, and environmental problems.
Not quite hot off the press any more but definitely worth mentioning as I was fortunate to be part of the founding team at the London WaterHackathon. Last week Taarifa was lucky enough to be named as one of the three Grand Prize Winners from the Sanitation App Challenge which took place last December. We even made The New York Times and the BBC.
We were already honoured to be selected as one of the 10 finalists and the news that we were also one of the 3 final winners was fabulous. Congratulations for those of the team that put in all the hard work to get us here. Congratulations also to the two other grand finalists: mSchool and SunClean. Members of each of the three teams were given tours around Silicon Valley last week.
So great news for Taarfia and its nice to feel the momentum. The road ahead is still long and challenging but its been amazing to see how much has been achieved already.
As Mark Iliffe always so aptly says, Onwards!