At Google’s I/O developer conference in June, the company held a “Develop for Good” hackathon as a collaboration between the I/O conference and Google’s philanthropy arm, Google.org. On Friday, Google picked the winners from the hackathon in three main categories: Ideas, Politics and Elections and Green. The selection of winners highlighted some interesting projects where companies are using technology to tackle issues in human rights and the environment.
Hackers in the Ideas arena were asked to develop a tool that could be used for reporting information from hostile situations with limited internet and repressive government regimes.
The winning project, Silent Lens, developed software for Android that allows users to capture sensitive information and securely transmit that information to others even with a hostile government and limited connectivity.
Silent Lens founders explained on their website the importance of getting information from those hostile environments into the world: “Information about incidents of violence in these situations is tremendously important: it can shame governments into reform, help the international community pressure regimes to cease violence, and increase citizens’ own commitments to affecting change.”
Politics and Elections
A Nigerian group created the winning project for Politics and Elections, taking the focus off the US Presidential election and instead bringing democratic participation to Nigeria with a new web platform. The group hails from the Google Developer Group in Lagos, Nigeria.
The project, a prototype of Assembly Bills, will allow Nigerian citizens to give input on bills through the website, rather than traveling to the host city to participate in the legislative process. “Assembly bills was created to give the ordinary citizen access to give inputs into bills that are to be pass into law by the legislative arms of their country,” the Assembly Bills founders explain on the site.
The winners of the Green challenge hail from Pakistan, specifically from the the Google Developer Group in Karachi, where they’re attempting to crowdsource citizen complaints about environmental concerns to bring them to the attention of government officials. The project, called Green It, rewards citizens who are particularly active and vocal in the community.
“What we generally concluded from our survey was that people put all the blame on government officials that they never respond to the problems and the area around us remains black where on the other hand the government officials say that we try to resolve every problem reported to us,” the group explained on its site. “We concluded that there is generally a communication gap between the society and the officials.”
Through the Google+ platform, Green It will allow citizens to report environmental concerns to government officials, and other citizens can validate the concerns if they also feel that it’s a problem. If the government doesn’t respond to widespread complaints, the idea is that users can then get media involved in the issue.