Friday, June 3, 2011

Hackers gather around the globe to fight climate change

When you hear the word hacker, you probably don't picture someone dedicated to solving the problems of global development.
But this weekend, self-proclaimed hackers around the world will gather at "hackathon" events to tackle disaster-risk management and climate change. The occasion is the semiannual Random Hacks of Kindness global conference, which seeks to leverage Internet data to address world problems.

Gatherings will be held in cities around the globe, from Atlanta to California's Silicon Valley and from Basel, Switzerland, to Bogota, Colombia. The conference is the result of a 2009 collaboration by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank, which founded Random Hacks of Kindness. (Both the organization and the events it organizes are known as RHoK.)
The group solicits "problem definitions" from organizations in the field of disaster preparedness, relief and climate change and puts them before "tech-savvy do-gooders," according to Elizabeth Sabet from SecondMuse, RHoK's global operational lead.
It's this synthesis between subject-matter experts and computer hackers that makes RHoK effective, its leaders said.
"Technical solutions created only by technical people are often too cumbersome for the field," said Philadelphia organizer Mike Brennan. "Solutions created by field experts alone often lack the technical and scientific basis for an effective solution. RHoK is looking to address these weaknesses directly."
Sabet is also quick to point out that "hacking" doesn't always mean what some people might think.

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