In order to make humanitarian aid more efficient and transparent, it is crucial to enable people in need to report on where, when and which help is needed. PwC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have joined forces and organized the hackathon for humanitarian aid on 11 and 12 February.
In 2017, 96,2 million people in 33 countries will be in need of humanitarian aid. The increasing need for humanitarian aid and the growing shortage of finance call for a radical innovation of the humanitarian sector. Last weekend, 75 programmers, data analysts, policy makers, aid experts and refugees worked for 36 hours straight on 12 prototypes. The hackathon was supported by United Nations organizations UNHCR and UNOCHA, Google and Leiden University’s Centre for Innovation.
'Hackathon for Humanitarian Aid gives a voice to people in need.'
The jury was so impressed by the performance of the teams that they surprised us all by announcing two winners. The first winner addressed the problem that results from low internet access. Currently, the voice of people living in remote areas with low connectivity is barely heard. In addition, safe and confidential communication is desperately needed. Team Dream Catchers, amongst others consisting of Syrian refugees, won the Hacking Aid Award. Their revolutionary prototype makes direct and encrypted communication between people in need and aid organizations possible.
The second winner of the hackathon focused on the fact that people in need increasingly approach aid organizations via social media. Unfortunately, the ability of aid organizations to adequately convert this unstructured data in overview and action is insufficient. Team Seeing Hunger helps the World Food Programme to respond to those who approach them via social media.
In addition, there was a Tech Award for the technically most impressive prototype. Botcast won this award with their prototype that enables radio stations in crises areas to directly act upon the millions of text messages they receive. This prototype allows Radio Dabanga in Darfur, with a reach of 2,3 million people, to react to the 1000 text messages that they receive on a daily basis.
The current methods of data collection used by aid organizations insufficiently take the voice of illiterates into consideration. Therefore, the Innovation Award went to the team that developed the app Noci, that uses audiovisual techniques to enable those whom are not able to read or write to report on their needs.
The two winners are invited to travel to Geneva and pitch their ideas to the board of UNHCR. They will also be able to take the stage during the launch of UNOCHA’s Humanitarian Data Centre. PwC and Leiden University will support the winning teams during the further development of their pitches as well as their prototypes. All prototypes will be available open source and they will be presented in the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation for possible follow-up. Berlin Thinking and G-workplace have offered their support for the further development of the prototypes.