New York City hosts hack for good to help PH rebuild
While everyone in the Filipino diaspora worldwide struggled to process the effect of typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines, a group of more than 50 software developers, designers and strategists gathered at the Projective Space in New York City not to raise funds and donations for the typhoon survivors but to hack, to hack for good.
Organized by NextDayBetter, a social enterprise focused on Philippines-themed entrepreneurship and innovation, participants were tasked to envision, prototype and build web and mobile apps to help with the relief and rebuilding process in devastated areas in the Philippines.
The social good hackathon featured participants from Open Sandy, FEMA, Samsung Innovation Team, Etsy, R/GA, the School of Visual Arts, and many more. Participants also participated virtually from Manila, Orlando and Paris.
“While everyone affected by the storm continues to push forward with the slow and challenging recovery process, Typhoon Haiyan has made it clear that we cannot simply rebuild what existed before,” said Ryan Letada, cofounder and chief builder at NextDayBetter. “When it comes to the sustained longterm rebuilding process of the regions affected by natural disasters, we need to be thinking different this time around, making sure that communities are resilient enough to rebound from future storms.”
The winner of the hackathon, a project called LDLN (pronounced “LandLine” and stands for Localized Distributed Logistics Network) has been invited to participate in a six-month incubation and mentorship program with Geeks Without Bounds.
We all know that in the wake of a natural disaster, the physical infrastructure of any affected region is compromised, leading to a severe crippling of the information and communications infrastructure. This leads to an inability to efficiently gather feedback from local communities in need, and ultimately to a poor distribution of resources and a lack of data needed to foster resilience going forward.
LDLN makes use of open source software and the Raspberry Pi – a low-cost, low-powered computer that act as an information hub – in order to solve the problem of the allocation of resources and the tracking of missing individuals in the wake of a natural disaster when physical communication infrastructure is damaged.
The Raspberry Pi devices on the ground allow automated syncing from offline mobile apps that can be used to collect information from survivors by an NGO field rep. Once information is recorded to the hub, daisy-chained Pi hubs sync to the Internet and can integrate with any third-party data sources such as Twitter, SalvaVida, or BangonPH API, to name a few examples, around Typhoon Haiyan.
In essence, it is about empowering the empower communities that would otherwise be “in the dark” to express their needs. Lowcost, lowpowered computers act as information hubs to empower people moving back and forth to act as communication lines, supplementing the compromised physical infrastructure.
Ryan was on his way to the investment realm, working at Fortune 500 companies such as Bloomberg LP and ABN-AMRO. However, a professor told him “Ryan, follow your passion and you’ll change the world. Don’t and you’ll forever be known as a great performer.”
“I didn’t want to perform. I want to live a purpose-driven life,” he said.
Throughout college, he was always involved in social good work from raising funds for Tsunami Relief Efforts in India to starting an enterprise focused on building computer clinics in the Philippines.
After college, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, where he studied urban poor/squatter relocation (e.g. Pasig River, Payatas and Rizal) and sustainable city design in the Philippines. During his time in the Philippines, he also co-founded an education non-profit called eKindling focused on bringing low-cost laptops to remote rural island of the Philippines. They partnered with MIT’s One Laptop Per Child to launch this learning initiatives.
“I’ve always been interested in innovation, creativity, and outside the box thinking in solving societal problems that face the Philippines. As a curious person, it’s so exciting to discover and apply new technologies and approaches to push our community forward,” Ryan added.
The hackathon is a prime example.
The weekend of Nov. 16-17 saw NextDayBetter hosting a design challenge + hackathon to help support Typhoon Relief Efforts. They were able to rally the tech and creative community in New York City, Paris, Manila, and Orlando and created seven (7) innovative digital apps and tools that help create a more resilient Philippines considering for future storms. It was attended by Samsung, School of Visual Arts, Etsy, Office of Emergency Management, General Assembly Alumnae, and many more.
“Besides sending monetary donations back home, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to show my love and support for the Philippines. This hackathon gave me the opportunity to use what skills I have to contribute in building something that could help make a more resilient Philippines. Seeing people from all different backgrounds giving their time and opening their hearts to help was inspiring,” said Lady Tanmantiong, Senior Designer at Landor Associates.
Other projects that came out of the hackathon include: Relief InSight, with two practical applications – Donation Arrival Time SMS and a Relief Marketplace between vendors and donors of goods, and relief agencies; SnapAid, a social initiative leveraging SnapChat to help maintain international awareness about rebuilding efforts in the Philippines; as well as Eskuwela Now, a communication tool that leverages SMS/text messages as a platform to coordinate “popup” schools to ease disruption of schooling during times of disasters.
As a platform, NextDayBetter spreads ideas and actions that make the next day better. Ideas and actions are Philippines-flavored and rooted in design, entrepreneurship and innovation. The group is inviting innovators, entrepreneurs, designers, do-gooders — both Filipino and non-Filipino — to share their stories about creating a better future.
“I wanted show how the global Filipino community is a hub and inspiration for brilliant ideas and actions that create a better future not just for the Philippines but for the world,” Ryan said.
Having attended countless innovation conferences from TED to Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Conference, Ryan realized that he rarely saw speakers of Filipino heritage. Being a TEDxYouth speaker himself, he knew that there were high-profile Filipino speakers out there. It was just about providing them opportunities to be visible and to shine.
“NextDayBetter is this platform and opportunity,” he said. “My goal is for NextDayBetter to be a platform to jumpstart collaborations that make an impact. Wouldn’t it be amazing for an innovator from Sydney and community organizer from New York City to collaborate on project to benefit the global filipino community? Awesome thing to imagine.”
Because of this platform, the group was able to rally New York City’s tech and creative community to develop tech-based solutions to help in the rebuilding of the Philippines. They were able to get Filipinos and non-Filipinos in tech and influential brands such as Feast On Good and Samsung to collaborate in creating tangible solutions for the Philippines.
“While disaster rapid response systems are ripe for innovation and as effects of climate change worsens, we challenged our community to think how they can help in the long-term rebuilding process and create a more resilient Philippines,” Ryan said.
Focused on pushing forward social good work, Ryan travels to the Philippines every other year. His parents are from Lucena City and Masbate.
Ryan, who was born in Kuwait where his hard-working mother (nurse) and father (chef/maintenance) met, dreams to have a NextDayBetter Event Series in cities across the globe including Sydney, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong and more.
“My dream is to connect the diaspora through our platform and rally them around the desire of making a difference for the Philippines, our global Filipino community and world. My dream is to become more than just a hub for brilliant people or brain trust,” he shared.
(NYNJ December 6, 2013 LifeEASTyle Magazine pg.2)