HARTFORD, CT, November 29, 2012 – As astonishing as it may be, 1 billion people around the globe have access to a
mobile phone but not to a toilet. Indeed, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – does not have access to any sanitation- and hygiene-related facilities whatsoever.
As a result, volunteer software developers at 24 global sites, Trinity College included, will simultaneously convene December 1 and 2 to try and find innovative solutions to sanitation challenges. The aptly named Sanitation Hackathon is the result of a partnership spearheaded by The World Bank in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), Eirene, Nokia, Unicef and Civic Commons.
This marks the second consecutive year that Trinity has been chosen as a global site to sponsor a RHoK gathering of software developers, and the fifth RHoK event that has been held since 2009.
RHoK is a unique collaboration between Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank dedicated to using technology to make the world a better place by building a volunteer community of innovation. Participants come together for a two-day hackathon to create open source software solutions that can save lives and alleviate suffering. This year’s event at Trinity is focusing specifically on the global sanitation problem set. Some examples include promoting hygiene in an innovative way to reduce child mortality; tracking sewage disposal in Accra, Ghana; learning about safe sanitation through games; and measuring the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. (For a complete set of problems, visit: http://www.sanitationhackathon.org/problems.)
At Trinity, the initiative is co-sponsored by the Humanitarian Free and Open Software (HFOSS) project led by Ralph Morelli, professor of computer science, and Trishan de Lanerolle, HFOSS project director, and by the Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS).
In hosting the hackathon, Trinity is in elite company. On the hackathon Web site (www.sanitationhackathon.org), Hartford, CT, is listed along with Jakarta, Indonesia; Cape Town, South Africa; Kampala, Uganda; Lima, Peru; Manila, The Philippines; Helsinki, Finland; and London, the United Kingdom, among others. In North America, the event will take place in New York City, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Sacramento, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles.
“We will be providing a creative space, food and the opportunity to brainstorm,” said de Lanerolle, adding that as many as 20 people can participate, including Trinity students. The hackathon will be held at the CUGS building at 70 Vernon Street on the Trinity campus. Registration is required for the free event, and the deadline is December 1. To register and also see the complete schedule, visit: http://www.rhok.org/event/hartford-ct-usa.
Civic-minded technologists, enthusiasts, academics, students and domain experts need only bring their laptops, their brainpower and a power strip if they have one. According to the Web site, friendly competition will be encouraged and prizes awarded to the best hacks of the day.
"When you have thousands of children dying every day and billions of dollars in economic losses every year just from a lack of sanitation, it's obvious there is a crisis," said Manager of the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Program Jae So. "We need a game changer, and since technology has dramatically changed all our lives, we know that mobile and other technology can offer new solutions we hadn't considered."
Each global site will operate in a unique fashion and will be facilitated by local partners and sponsors. De Lanerolle said the intent is “to encourage collaboration and foster the creative mind” in connection with finding solutions to worldwide sanitation problems.
In promoting the Sanitation Hackathon, the sponsors noted, “the War on Poop is an ugly one. In the time it has taken you to read this, a child has died because of poor sanitation. In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all of the people lost to armed conflict since World War II, mostly due to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, or insufficient hygiene.”
The Sanitation Hackathon comes on the heels of the first-ever Water Hackathon, which was held in October 2011, and featured nearly 1,000 registered hackers at 10 locations worldwide who developed 62 new prototypes.
And on November 6, the World Bank in Washington D.C. convened sector specialists and information and communication technology experts to review and refine problem statements for the 2012 Sanitation Hackathon. The workshop featured technology experts with backgrounds in mobile, geospatial and open-source technologies who worked through challenges defined by sanitation specialists. Watch a video of the action below: http://www.sanitationhackathon.org/stories/sanitation-hacking-101-watch-video