Emergency Software Solutions

Random Hacks of Kindness, Courtesy of the World Bank

A man stands on a roof as he awaits rescue in heavy flooding in Taimali, south-eastern Taiwans Taitung county on August 8, 2009 during Typhoon Morakot. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images) Next week the World Bank is teaming up with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and NASA to put on their first Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon, a 3 day programming marathon which aims to  develop software solutions for the challenges associated with natural disasters;  150 Programmers will work with disaster relief experts to identify problems and possible solutions for those living and working in natural disaster environments, taking into account the perspective of victims as well as first responders. 

Water flows past a severely eroded embankment near a damaged bridge that previously linked Pingtung and Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan on August 9, 2009. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

I was in Taipei in August when Typhoon Morakat ripped through southern Taiwan, bringing unpredicted levels of rainfall with deadly effects.  The federal government failed to anticipate the Morakat's threat and was unequipped to respond accordingly.  Consequently, local communities, disaster victims themselves, were the first to respond the event, using limited bootstrapped technologies if any.

No doubt these solutions will be interesting for Taiwan as well as other communities plagued by natural disasters.  If you are interested in suggesting a subject matter expert or a developer or a specific aspect of the challenge, please follow this link. The Hackathon will take place in Moutain View, California on the 11th and 12th of November.