Random Hacks of Kindness: Disaster Relief Codejam

random hacks of kindness

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and the World Bank are getting together to support disaster relief projects. The first Codejam will be Nov 12-14 i the Bay Area. You can sign-up now. The list of proposed projects is online.

What is Random Hacks of Kindness?

It is an initiative that brings together disaster relief experts and software engineers to work on identifying key challenges to disaster relief, and developing solutions to these critical issues. This Codejam is the first of a series of Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) events that will bring the best and brightest together for a “give camp” to solve real world-problems related to Crisis/Disaster Relief.


This event is the first step in building a global community dedicated to solving disaster relief challenges through technology.

At the RHoK Codejam, programmers will partner with subject matter experts to tackle “real world “problems. These challenges have begun to be defined (see preparation), and will continue to be refined during the event.

The software created at this first event will continue to be developed at subsequent RHoK events, and openly shared with the international community. Our hope is that this software will address some of the serious challenges facing the disaster response community, and evolve in response to their needs.


In May 2009, the first ever Crisis Camp barcamp was held in Washington, DC. During one of the opening sessions an industry panel including representatives from Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! agreed that some matters supersede competitive concerns. We agreed to cooperate to mobilize our developer communities to create interoperable solutions/code that will have real impact in the field. We have partnered with NASA and The World Bank to make this happen.


Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and The World Bank are founding sponsors

NASA-Ames is a co-sponsor


We want our hacks to make an impact. To that end we need the problem definitions as tight as possible before we begin coding on the 12th. The following is a link (see here) to the preliminary project definitions. Please contribute by adding new ideas and/or refining ones that are already there.

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  • niti bhan

    Hmm, imho, a good starting point would be to allow survivors to map each other’s location, through overlapping social network’s we’re bound to find anyone who can send an sms giving #hashtag for each of the people around them. You could then search for people you needed to find, after a disaster.

  • Kathleen Reed

    I have an idea that may help.

    After I spent a horrific few days on IRC, talking to people in the Hurricane Katrina zone, it was apparent that most did not realize how bad the storm was going to be, far-enough ahead of time. One way to communicate such a message would be through e-mail, so I’m thinking that if there was some way to send a mass e-mail or server message (similar to emergency broadcast system messages, maybe?) that either gave information directly and/or directed them to the proper online sites for evacuation, checking in, so everyone knows you’re OK and family locating, more lives may be saved.

  • We’ve started to look at this from a rescue team perspective and have quite a few Disaster Response Teams now using or trailing the system, including some who took it to the Sumatra earthquake this month.


    We would love to be involved with Random Hacks of Kindness, but we’re Europe based.

  • Sounds like a great initiative. i think i can contribute in the area of emergency response staff scheduling and staff allocation

  • Lorna Hartman

    Where is the link to the preliminary project definitions? I’d like to look at those. Thanks.

  • Jonah

    Is it true that there is going to be a Random Hack of Kindness at the Copenhagen climate change conference? I found this spreadsheet (http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dG9FcmNWU1pKaTh0eGN2N25OTDJBV0E6MQ)
    and am very excited to sign up, but I wanted to confirm that I was filling out a legitimate form.

  • eCLIC (Emergency Communications Leadership & Innovation Center), a SIG of the Wireless Communications Alliance (WCA), supports the RHOK and…eCLIC will provide a few cases of liquid energy for the hackers.