Fridays can be incredibly quiet at the World Bank, but Friday, July 16, was a completely different day. The World Bank visitor’s center and lobby were buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. This was the day that the East Asia and Pacific and Latin American and Caribbean region Disaster Risk Management Teams, along with the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), hosted the first-ever International CrisisCongress. (In photo above, participants express themselves through sign language.)
The event was organized by the CrisisCommons – a Volunteer Technical Community (VTC) of software developers, engineers, and technology enthusiasts who are using innovative methods and tools to help save lives in the aftermath of natural disasters. The event brought together dozens of people eager to use whatever skills they possess – technological and non-technological – to ensure tomorrow’s world is one where people don’t die because of a lack of technological assistance in disaster relief and rehabilitation.
This CrisisCongress marked the first time VTCs came together from so many different countries and diverse backgrounds. Through the World Bank’s collaboration with the Commons – and similar partnerships like Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) – we hope to support communities across the globe to become resilient in the face of disasters. No longer must those who seek help be forced to wait on humanitarian aid to make its way to disaster-stricken areas. Instead members of the CrisisCongress envision a world that with the power of a mobile device and the internet, one can not only save one’s own life, but countless others as well. See what these VTCs created in the few hours they put their minds together during the July 16 global hackathon.
The CrisisCongress is an initiative that emerged out of the global hackathon, a RHoK initiative. The many participants who took part in the hackathon in places like Nairobi, Sao Paolo, Sydney, and Jakarta were enthusiastic about the prospects of future collaboration with the World Bank and other technological partners. Our Sydney hack-a-thon organizer, Heather Leson, was so enthusiastic that she dropped everything she was doing and literally went to the airport and waited till her ticket was approved from World Bank headquarters. This all happened in such a short amount of time that I could’ve sworn it was pure adrenalin that made us process her ticket. Her account of the Sydney camp can be found here. And according to the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Leader for East Asia, Chas Feinstein, the Sydney hackathon was “inspiring, heart-warming and energizing.”
In fact, nearly every global hack-a-thon participant shared Chas’s sentiments. Hack-a-thons are just the beginning. The goal is to eventually create a community of tech-savvy individuals who want to use any skills they have to help humanity when a natural disaster strikes. You don’t need to have a degree in IT or live in a particular city. Come as you are, and be prepared for the ride of a lifetime. What are you waiting for? Join the movement. You won’t regret it!