Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) was born of a partnership between Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, NASA, and The World Bank. Leaders at these companies know that there are some problems facing the world that should come before business concerns. So now, working with a team of subject matter experts and Crisis Commons, RHoK organizes hackathons that bring together civic- and socially-minded volunteer hackers to solve problems through technological innovation. The first hackathon was held in November 2009. The winning hack, I’MOK!, is utterly simple and at the same time extremely useful. I’MOK is an app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. When disaster hits, like the earthquake in Haiti, cell phone towers get jammed with people trying to call in and out of the area, wanting to know if their loved ones are okay. I’MOK takes advantage of the fact that SMS messages consume significantly less bandwidth than a phone call; when downloading the app, you connect it with your email, Facebook, and Twitter contacts so, if disaster strikes, you can notify everyone quickly and easily that you are indeed O.K. Users can also add one of 6 default messages to their SMS, like “We need help evacuating.” The SMS is also conveniently geo-tagged.
The next hackathon will be held June 4-6 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.