Hacking for Haiti

January 18th, 2010 |


Journalist. Rogue cynic. Type Atypical personality. Don't hate - that's MY job. Follow my musings on Twitter @laurenthedark

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I’d like to take a break from our regularly scheduled social media programming to discuss a nationwide activity that occurred over the weekend. I, along with several other tech savvy individuals in various cities across the US and in London, participated in the CrisisCommons project CrisisCamp, a technological call to action in an effort to aid Haiti. These impromptu sessions, organized only a couple of days beforehand, allowed participants to see how social media and open source development can aid as a direct response to Haitian citizens. As an attendee of CrisisCamp Brooklyn, organized by Ohad Folman of Freelancers Union, we started off by brainstorming several ideas only to hit a roadblock that many of us had not considered, having grown accustomed to living in the wired world – how do you reach out to people through technology when the area is without order or electricity?

“We can reach them through SMS! Oh wait…if there is no power, there is no place to charge a cellphone.” “We can distribute keychain voice recorders so they can send messages letting us know exactly what they need…oh wait, we don’t have the logistical capabilities to handle the distribution of goods at this point.” “Since Radio Soleil is currently one of their only means of information and communication, maybe we can rent a satellite and…”

And so the day progressed in that fashion. However, many solid and feasible ideas were formed in the process and will continue to manifest as we engage in upcoming sessions.

One project presented during our meeting that is already in the works is an open source mapping project courtesy of the New York Public Library Maps Division. The Relief Map Warper is in need of participants to rectify longitude and latitude coordinates of existing maps within Google Maps via crowdsourcing so that a more accurate digital map of Haiti can be accessible.

If you would like to find out more information about future CrisisCamp sessions, visit the @CrisisCamp Twitter page for up-to-the-minute updates. On Twitter, posts related to CrisisCamp projects and sessions will be labeled with the hashtag #cchaiti. Also visit the Crisiswiki Google group and CrisisCamp Wiki page for more detailed information.

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Lauren Cannon
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