#HaitiHack is on
Thursday morning I’ll be on a plane heading to the beautiful but troubled island nation of Haiti. It’s difficult to know how to feel. I am excited to be traveling to a new part of the world I’ve never seen before. And I’m heartened to be going to support Digital Democracy’s hackathon, which aims to build a mobile reporting tool for women in Haiti to report acts of violence.
My anticipation is tempered, however, by the knowledge that Haiti’s sufferings continue. A toxic brew of endemic violence, disease, and poverty still hold Haiti back, just as Paul Farmer describes in 2003 in Pathologies of Power. A cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by the UN in the wake of the 2010 earthquake continues to go unaddressed — though pressure is starting to build (you can add your name to a petition for UN action at Avaaz). Makeshift camps set up three years ago to shelter the 1.5 million displaced earthquake survivors have become semi-permanent shacks surrounding the capital of Port-au-Prince. These camps retain all the challenges of unregulated violence and sexual abuse that plague informal disaster camps not set up for long-term residence or with safety in mind.
But Digital Democracy’s coalition of hackers and designers will be helping to build tools for Haitians to take control of their lives and neighborhoods. Building on the recent launch of Haiti’s first 24-hour emergency hotline for gender-based violence, hackers will build a web platform to map/aggregate information on service providers throughout the country. A second aim is to create a way to turn local data points into easily understood (and emotionally compelling) visuals to be able to advocate for increased security for Haitian women & girls.
I’ll be there with Openbox, one of Digital Democracy’s supportors, to help document the hackathon and turn its process and outcomes into a lesson in hacking for global development. You can follow our progress on Twitter at #HaitiHack.
It’s going to be five days worth remembering.