Today

#HaitiHack is on

Thursday morning I'll be on a plane heading to the beautiful but troubled island nation of Haiti. It's difficult to know how to feel. I am excited to be traveling to a new part of the world I've never seen before. Heartened to be going with Digital Democracy to help out with their hackathon, which aims to build a mobile reporting tool for women in Haiti to report acts of violence.

My anticipation is tempered, however, by the knowledge that Haiti's sufferings continue. A toxic brew of endemic violence, disease, and poverty still hold Haiti back, just as Paul Farmer describes in his masterful text, Pathologies of Power, back in 1995. A cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by the UN in the wake of the 2010 earthquake continues to go unaddressed -- though pressure is starting to build (you can add your name to a petition for UN action at Avvaz). Makeshift camps set up three years ago to shelter the 1.5 million displaced earthquake survivors have become semi-permanent shacks surrounding the capital of Port-au-Prince. These camps retain all the challenges of violence and abuse that plague informal disaster camps not set up for long-term residence. 

But Digital Democracy's coalition of hackers and designers will help build tools for Haitians to take control of their lives and neighborhoods. Building on the recent launch of Haiti's first 24-hour emergency hotline for gender-based violence, participants in the hackathon will build a web platform to map/aggregate information on service providers throughout the country. A second aim is to create a way to turn local data points into easily understood (and emotionally compelling) visuals to be able to advocate for increased security for Haitian women & girls. 

I'll be there with Openbox, one of Digital Democracy's supportors, to help document the hackathon and turn its process and outcomes into a lesson in hacking for global development. You can follow our progress on Twitter at #HaitiHack

It's going to be a memorable five days.