Grassroots action in the technology age – RHoK

For this post I’m finally moving away from “the big picture” to look at the world closer to home.  This is a tale of my horizons being broadened with attendance this evening at a RHoK Showcase event.

Random Hacks of Kindness, or RHoK, is loose, global collective of talented, well-meaning geeks putting their skills toward developing low-cost technology solutions for society’s problems (my words, and apologies if this offends any of the “geeks” involved – they’re good people doing good things).

Small teams of mostly software developers, but also designers and most importantly problem-owners, convene to walk through a problem that could be addressed with a web or smartphone app.  At tonight’s gathering the strong theme was to help address some of the problems posed by bushfires – a natural disaster endemic to our part of the world.  The specific problems/solutions presented were:

  • Firefighter location mapping using BYOD smartphones and truck-mounted wireless LAN
  • Local area fire alert/information web portal
  • Automated household fire-plan builder
  • Reslience, a “market place” that brings together the large amount of voluntary community help that become available in the aftermath of a natural disaster with the location and details for non-life-threatening problems, such as fallen trees or damaged infrastructure

In each case a team of between 5 and 10 people had put in a couple of weekends minimum to develop a working prototype software solution – a fantastic achievement for the volunteers involved.

A bad photo of a good deed - the title slide from one of the RHoK projects presented at this evening's showcase

A bad photo of a good deed – the title slide from one of the RHoK projects presented at this evening’s showcase

There was also a keynote presenter in the form of Sean Herron, a technology strategist from NASA (!) – an organisation who are great supporters of the worldwide RHoK movement.

The RHoK initiative is a fantastic example of “Creating Shared Value“.  It also illustrates where ICT is bringing efficiencies to help with existing efforts, and requires negligible infrastructure investment.  Sorta makes you wonder what could be done if there was more money from government to support this sort of work….


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