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OpenGov Voices: FreedomHack: A Hackathon for Good

by guest author Barrett Holmes

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are Barrett_Holmes_Pitner_headshottheirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Barrett Holmes Pitner is the Senior Global Editor, Cont3nt.com (one of the organizers of the FreedomHack. You can reach him at barrett@cont3nt.com @barrettpitner

This weekend, August 10-11, coders, hackers, policy experts and journalists will spend 24 hours at a hackathon feverishly working together to develop tools and products that will help those living in the most dangerous parts of the world tell their stories. This is FreedomHack.

FreedomHack 1 We have all been to hackathons and witnessed how the combination of energy, enthusiasm, intelligence, creativity and technical expertise consistently results in products that could take months to conceive in a traditional corporate structure. We understand how removing the monotony of “work” from the equation and replacing it with “fun and passion” can create brilliant results, and this is what we aim to achieve this weekend.

When the organizers of FreedomHack conceived the idea, it was just a handful of us in a room trying to figure out the best way to help these communities. A hackathon clearly rose to the top because of its inventive, spontaneous and fun structure.

From the onset, we have always referred to FreedomHack as “a hack for good.” FreedomHack will allow every participant the opportunity to have fun and work hard over one weekend for the benefit of people who live in embattled communities who desperately need your expertise.

This hackathon will focus on developing secure tools and products for those who live in parts of Mexico that have been overrun by cartel violence and human rights related issues. Citizen reporters and journalists regularly face threats on their lives and at the very least, censorship on the vital topics they are reporting.

Register for the FreedomHack hackathon.

FreedomHack will provide these individuals with the tools and the confidence to get their stories out of their town or village and into the global community. This can foster the change and awareness necessary to make a positive impact on the lives of those affected.

This hackathon has an emphasis on Mexico, but the knowledge and tools developed over the weekend will also be applicable to other war torn and conflict ridden parts of the world.

Our keynote speaker Dlshad Othman is a Syrian cyber security expert who was forced to flee his home country in 2011 once the Syrian government learned of his work to develop secure lines of communication for Syrians living through that nation’s bloody civil war. He understands the importance of creating these lines of communication. He has risked his life to create them and has continued his work while living in exile.

There are global networks of people working hard to empower communities with the necessary resources to improve their worlds. Some may opt for health and sanitation issues, others may focus on infrastructure, but at the end of the day, communication is the bedrock of any lasting improvement. FreedomHack will help those whose voices currently cannot be heard, speak to the world.

FreedomHack has been organized by:

  1. Cont3nt.com, a marketplace for freelance and citizen reporting that connects video, photo and print content creators to media organizations.
  2. CommunityRED, a nonprofit advocating for free speech, technology activism, and security for vulnerable communities by delivering secure technology solutions for citizen reporters and journalists.
  3. Amnesty International, a Nobel Peace prize winning international human rights organization with over 3 million members and supporters worldwide.

FreedomHack also has the support of Reporters Without Borders, the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and the Sunlight Foundation.

 You can also follow FreedomHack on Twitter and on Facebook.

Photo credit: (flickr user Jesús Villaseca Perez)

Interested in writing a guest blog for Sunlight? Email us at guestblog@sunlightfoundation.com.