Hackathon

A two-day event will discuss challenges faced by children in urban areas; they will include a Hackathon and roundtables on innovation.

Girl in a Turkish language class in a refugee camp in southern Turkey
Girl in a Turkish language class in a refugee camp in southern Turkey

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kazakhstan will host a two-day event on Innovation and Technology for Children at Astana EXPO 2017. On the 18th and 19th of August, international and local experts in technology, innovators and entrepreneurs will join thought leaders and members of the academia, along with public sector officials to discuss the challenges faced by children growing up in cities.

On the 18th of August, young programmers from Astana, Almaty and other Kazakhstan cities will compete in a hackathon entitled “Innovating for children in an Urban World”. Participants will offer prototype solutions to children’s challenges in urban areas that range from tackling air pollution and improving safety to providing accessible transportation and safer streets for children.

Adolescent girls use cellphones and tablets in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees
Adolescent girls use cellphones and tablets in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees

The 19th of August will organize talks on “Advancing the Rights of Children through Innovation” and will gather international speakers from UNICEF, Google.org (Google’s charitable arm), Project Connect (global mapping project on schools’ internet connectivity), the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and Youth Policy Labs (a global think-tank on youth) to share their expertise on expanding opportunities for children and youth through innovation.

UNICEF Talks will also feature promising change-makers, start-ups, corporate and public sector pioneers from Kazakhstan who will discuss challenges and opportunities in the country’s emergent innovation ecosystem.

UNICEF innovation for children at Astana Expo

Time: 09:30-18:00

Date: 18 – 19 August 2017

Place: Creative Energy Pavillion, Expo

Speakers: International speakers from UNICEF, Google.org (Google’s charitable arm), Project Connect (global mapping project on schools’ internet connectivity), The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and Youth Policy Labs (a global think-tank on youth).

The Horyou’s 4th Edition of SIGEF will take place during EXPO 2017 Astana, in Kazakhstan. The Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum will discuss Future Energy, Smart Cities, SDGs, and lead official delegation to EXPO 2017 Astana. More information on www.sigef2017.com and consult agenda or register your attendance.

A beautiful view of Geneva on the second day
A beautiful view of Geneva on the second day.

It was a cloudy morning in Geneva when I headed to my first Hackathon. I was excited and curious for the challenge of using technology and communication techniques to develop projects on the refugee crisis, along with other marketing professionals, journalists, programmers and developers. The event was organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), in a partnership with the Radio et Télevision Suisse (RTS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Although I had read a lot about Hackathons all over the world, I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the beautiful and impressive building of RTS. I was welcomed by a friendly team and very quickly started to make contacts among the participants. They were producers, editors, designers, entrepreneurs and curious with different origins and interests, but with the same goal: to discover how technology can help with good and meaningful projects.

The refugee crisis is the theme of the moment. Europe has been flooded by millions of migrants and refugees for years now, in a situation that has been aggravated by misinformation, prejudice and radicalism from both sides. Communication is key here – and that is the reason why EBU, RTS and UNHCR decided to organize a Hackathon over the refugee crisis.

How non-specialists in refugee policies could possibly develop communication tools and projects for this seemingly endless challenge in 24 hours? Well, this is what Hackathon stands for: it is a “Hacker” marathon. And when I thought of hackers I had all the misinformation and prejudice I could get: people trying to steal passwords or to transfer money from bank accounts by breaking in computers. I was surprised when I discovered that, in modern computer science language, to hack is to find a solution for a problem or an inefficient process. And this is what we were willing to do, after all.

Coaching and lectures were given to the participants
Coaching and lectures were given to the participants.

We were coached for specialists in many areas: a content leader of the UNHCR, a media and data professional on Google, a young journalist who discovered appalling stories on Iran, Afghanistan and Syria using data and crossing information, as well as professionals from media outlets as Deutsche Welle and RTS itself. They were there to provide inspiration and to help us by sharing knowledge and advices.

My group of 6 people started working on a project to connect young refugees with local people, since our focus was integration. We identified problems as isolation, lack of communication between both groups and prejudice. The idea was to develop an educational app to “match” them according to their hobbies and common interests, like music, sports, career aspirations. We spent the night working on programming, design and content for our project, as well as the other teams. We needed and we had great help from the coaches and even from our “competitors”. We could exchange people from groups if we felt interested on a different project.

After many hours of work, we were ready for the pitch session. It was amazing to see how, in a short period of time, all groups had developed great ideas for the refugee crisis. Two of them were focused on the refugee travel. Using real time information, they could show the best route for refugees based on their profile: families, men, women, mixed groups. Other tried to raise awareness on the refugee crisis, showing a European or American person how hard it is to live in a refugee camp or to travel thousands and thousands of kilometers, using data and storytelling tools. The winner group developed an app with information about all European countries such as refugee policy and laws, health care system and shelters.

After 24 hours of working together, we didn’t feel we were competitors, as it is common in group contests. We were sharing skills and inspiration, feeding each other with purpose and will. We celebrated the best project because it was indeed a great idea and didn’t feel sorry for not being chosen as winners. Most important, we showed the UN Refugee Agency many possibilities and paths they can take from here.

Personally, I have got made new friends, new abilities and a full set of ideas I will use and share in my work at Horyou. As a social network for the social good, we have the same goals and aspirations I experienced on this Hackathon: to connect for good, to help solving social challenges by using technology and communication and to build a better world. I didn’t know it by then, but we are all together social good hackers.

Written by Vivian Soares

Boy using computer

Science x Kickstarter Hackathon was held Feb. 28 and March 1 at the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The weekend was dedicated to collaboration among scientists, artists, designers and writers, and bringing those ideas to life. Kickstarter is a website to help fund creative projects through pledges and donations.

At this particular event, there were 16 projects that people could sign up for to help support a team in need. On Saturday, all 16 teams presented their projects:

Horyou found it interesting to learn about the projects and how dedicated the team members are to their success. With the help of Kickstarter and participants of this event, we hope to see these projects flourish and gain the exposure they need. Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 3.12.00 PM “We’re delighted by the diversity of the projects that were selected for this event,” said Francois Grey, coordinator of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre. “There’s everything from artificial intelligence for sorting trash to laser cooling for detecting antimatter, and from studying the genetics of beer to GPS-enabled harnesses for rescue and mine-sniffing dogs. (Citizens Cyberscience Centre)”

Thank you to Francois Grey from CERN for inviting us to this fantastic event.

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