Hackers Around the World Gather at "Hackathons" to Tackle Disaster Risk Management

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK)


Hackers are often portrayed as anarchist, rebels, or criminals, but this hacker “get together” is for the good of humanity.  Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is an annual global get together of software developers and various independent computer experts and students with a common goal, building software applications for global challenges and crisis.  Gatherings are held in cities around the globe.  The conference is the result of a 2009 collaboration by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank.  The group solicits problems from organizations involved in disaster preparedness, relief and climate change and presents them to the hackers.  The “hackathon” is a fast-paced competition where software developers have a set amount of time to solve challenges they are given.  At the end of a two-day marathon of hacking, a panel of experts will review each hack and the winners will walk away with prizes and the opportunity to see their applications put to use on the ground to respond to critical disaster risk challenges.


Last year's RHoK #2 New York City winning hack, Incident Commander (now called FirstResponder), has gone from concept to implementation with over 20 fire stations across the Northern New Jersey and New York area evaluating it.  This tool helps Incident Commanders understand where critical resources are located - Responders, Vehicles, Equipment, Security, Supplies, etc.  FirstResponder tracks responders in real-time; provides them with turn-by-turn route directions; calculates exact distances along roadways to nearby hydrants; provides critical information about each responder's mission, those of other nearby responders and locations of area hazards; allows for data collection via voice, web or SMS communications.  It can be used by teams managing an international humanitarian crisis or locally by fire/medical emergency responders.  Other applications worked on at RHoK include: I’mOK, a mobile messaging application for disaster response that was used on the ground in Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes; People Finder, a virtual message board, refined at successive RHoK events and effectively deployed in Haiti, Chile and Japan; and CHASM, a visual tool to map landslide risk currently being piloted by the World Bank in landslide affected areas in the Caribbean.

For more information and upcoming events click HERE!