Humanitarian Software – Using technology to help humanity

2:37 pm community, freesoftware, marketing, work

Tomorrow, Friday September 23rd, the Humanitarian FOSS track at the Open World Forum will bring together leaders from some of the most important humanitarian software projects and case studies of the impact these projects are having on people’s lives around the world. I’m happy to have been allowed to chair the track, and I am humbled by the quality of the presenters and the impact that their work is having.

In addition to the Humanitarian track, we are also honoured to have Laura Walker Hudson from FrontlineSMS give a keynote presentation on the overarching theme of “Humanitarian FOSS – serving humanity” in the main auditorium at 17:15. Laura will give an overview of the myriad ways that free and open source software is saving and helping people’s lives.

The Humanitarian track will have two core themes:

  • Crisis Management– how Free and Open Source Software plays a role in extreme events
    • The Sahana project, born in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, helps NGOs and citizens caught in a crisis by crowd-sourcing missing persons reports, co-ordinate different NGOs working in the same place, and track incident reports and volunteer co-ordination.
    • Tashiro Shuichi from Japan will present the ways that Open Source software helped during the tsunami disaster in Japan.
    • Syrine Tlili from the Tunisian Ministry of Communication Technologies will tell us how Open Source was used by citizens during the Arab Spring revolutions
    • Sigmah is a project that enables project management for NGOs
  • Sustainable Development– once the crisis is over, what are the projects that help with systemic problems like education, health-care, sanitation, and documenting human rights violations?
    • SMS is the killer app for communication in the developing world. Most villages in Africa, Asia and South America have cellphone connectivity, but unreliable power grid, Internet and no phone lines. FrontlineSMS enables you to send and receive SMS messages from any computer, using a cheap phone or GSM modem. It is at the heart of every prominent humanitarian software project.
    • Sugar is an operating system which was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of educators in developing countries, as part of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project to revolutionize the use of technology in education. Sean Daly from the Sugar project will show us a deployment of Sugar and OLPC in a secondary school in a small town in Madagascar.
    • Martus, a project created by Benetech, allows the secure recording and storage of testimony relating to human rights violations. Testimony collected with Martus has been used to successfully prosecute police officers for murder in Guatemala.
    • Mifos, which was developed by Grameen Bank, the pre-cursor of micro-financing, provides a micro-financing platform for financial institutions.
    • Akvo help connect doers and donors to transform communities in some of the poorest parts of the world, funding water, sanitation, and health-care projects around the world.
    • The Open Bank Project promotes financial transparency and provides tools to allow people to fight corruption in banking.

Coders for Social Good

There are dozens of amazing Free/Open Source Software projects working to improve the lives of people around the world. For example, Literacy Bridge provides talking books to communities in Africa, and OpenMRS enables the gathering of medical information from regional clinics to reduce child mortality by improving resource allocation.

Many Open Source developers are developing software in communities because they want to make the world a better place. Working on a humanitarian project provides a unique opportunity to combine the social good of Open Source community projects and the public good of helping people in need. Social Coding 4 Good is a new initiative from Benetech which puts willing volunteers in contact with humanitarian projects in need of resources.

The schedule for the track is available on the Open World Forum website. For any press or interview requests, please contact me by email dave@neary-consulting.com or my cellphone +33 6 77 01 92 13.

 

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