ICT4SDG | Youth
July 9, 2014

Young Innovators Competition Hosts Second Hangout on Open Source Technology for Disaster Management

By Joseph Gaylord

The ITU Telecom World Young Innovators Competition held our second Google Hangout on July 3. These events take the form of live-streamed panel discussions and give our current participants a chance to discuss the major issues surrounding our challenges with experts from around the globe.

For our current challenge we are looking for young social entrepreneurs using open source technologies for disaster management. This is a critical area of interest since growing populations and increasing problems of natural disasters are putting a strain on disaster management groups. As the most vulnerable areas are often also the least economically developed, open source tools provide the possibility of inexpensive, adaptable and scalable solutions which they need.

The hangout brought together Anasilvia Salazar and Yasser Siddiqui, two of our current applicants with Sara-Jayne Terp, Director of Data Project at Ushahidi, and two of our former winners, Linkesh Diwan of CrisisCommunicator and Anna Clements of Broad Street Maps. We discussed the potential benefits and challenges of open source technology in business, including security and intellectual property, and why it is important to have open source disaster management tools for reasons of adaptability and interoperability. We examined some of the major issues confronting social startups working in the global south, such as barriers to adoption of technology and the need to find business models that allowed a business to remain viable while providing societal good. We also addressed some technical questions about running open source businesses, such as the role of a community and how to balance novel innovation versus the use of existing tools.

When the Challenge closes on 31st July, two winners will be selected and will be invited to Doha for an accelerator program and the chance to pitch their idea in front of the influential audience of ITU Telecom World, leaders from both the private and the public sector. They will receive up to $10,000 in seed funding and a year of top level mentorship.

You can watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7PDI_CN91s

Some of the highlightsof the discussion:

On the importance of open source technologies in disasters: “The big problem for disaster response up to this point has been stovepiping, each agency had its own software and they didn’t speak to each other… they’re starting to use the same pieces of open source tech and they’ve instantly got a way to actually speak to each other.” – Sara-Jayne Terp

On building a community around open source: “When you’re working with an open source product… the primary push isn’t getting people to buy your product, it’s getting people to use it and contribute back to it and back to the community.” – Linkesh Diwan

On doing good while doing well: “It’s not dirty to make money. It IS bad to build a beautiful product and let if fail because you can’t keep it running… There is a trend toward social good for profits which is quite interesting to watch. On the other hand, you don’t need to be a poverty stricken non-profit. The NFL makes billions of dollars, but it’s a non-profit.” – Sara-Jayne Terp

On finding profitable business models: “For the past few years we’ve really focused on that consultancy model…we’ve worked with about we found that there’s a lot of replication and steps that get repeated again and again, so we’ve been trying to figure out what are the most valuable pieces of the individual projects we’ve done and try to pull those out and then hopefully build a technology…that can be scaled and brought to various partner organizations… to hold onto that special sauce as we call it.” – Anna Clements

As the second challenge wraps up at the end of the month, there will be more hangouts and challenges coming up from the Young Innovators Competition.

To keep up with all the news from us, go to our Facebook page or visit our website.

Joseph Gaylord
is a crowdsourcing, innovation and community expert for the ITU Telecom World Young Innovators Competition. Previously, he was part of the team working on building the community for and drafting the outcomes from the BYND2015 Youth Conference. He has worked as a freelance writer and social media/crowdsourcing consultant, and helps to maintain various projects around Geneva. Joseph has a Masters in International Affairs from The Graduate Institute Geneva. The Young Innovators team can be contacted at young.innovators@itu.int.

Photo by Andrew Gaines

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Young Innovators Competition Hosts Second Hangout on Open Source Technology for Disaster Management

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