TechCamp Paves the Way for a More Resilient Philippines

May 31, 2014
Secretary Kerry Observes a Map at a Relief Distribution Center in the Philippines

The U.S Department of State -- U.S. Embassy Manila and the Office of eDiplomacy -- in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and with support from the White House, UN World Food Programme, Globe Labs, Open Data Philippines and other partners, recently held the 1st TechCamp in the Philippines.

The TechCamp was themed “Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Building”, and had 103 participants which included DRR practitioners (NGOS, Educators, Local Government representatives, Disaster response experts) and technologists from all over the country. The TechCamp was part of the “Tech for Resilience Week” which also included two hackathons.

The focus of these events was on integrating innovative, low-cost tech-solutions, to assist the citizens of the Philippines in being better prepared to face natural disasters and other extreme events. There were some great outcomes from the TechCamp, which included innovative projects like:

  • A Mobile App for needs assessment, matching relief operations, and coordinating a volunteer database;
  • A gaming concept that trains the general population about specific protocols needed in preparing for a disaster;
  • A crowdfunding app that recruits funds but also provides a feedback mechanism for donors to track their contributions; and
  • A concept that uses SMS crowdsourced information to create high risk/low risk hazard.

Ambassador Phillip Goldberg, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, and Gloria Steele, USAID Mission Chief - Philippines and Pacific Islands, attended the closing portion of the TechCamp, and were delighted with the results. A short video highlighting the TechCamp can be found here. TechCamps are high energy events, where learning is mixed with fun -- as seen in this TechCamp Philippines Harlem Shake video.

TechCamp Philippines also got some great publicity in the media including a blog by the WhiteHouse (co-authored by eDiplomacy), articles by the Government of Philippines, and reputed local newspapers like Philippines Star and Manila Journal.

The TechCamp was followed by a couple of hackathons organized by Google, the World Bank, the Philippines Open Government team, Globe labs, and Smart, in collaboration with the US Embassy Manila and USAID.

The idea behind these hackathons was to build on the discussions / concepts / tech-solutions created at the TechCamp, and implement those ideas by developing applications (both mobile and web). The first hackathon had around 50 developers, who hacked for 18 hrs developing 16 applications. The three winning apps were:

  • App that displays a meaningful dashboard for rainfall and slope displacement info;
  • App called ERPAT that tracks permits assessment and tracking; and
  • App that identifies and collates building hazards data to repair structures in anticipation of a disaster.

The winners each received a grant of 30,000 Pesos (~$700) from USAID, which will be awarded to local government units (LGUs) to customize the Apps and provide training.

The second hackathon, led by the Open Data Taskforce-Government of Philippines and the World Bank’s Code for Resilience Team, produced 24 applications, with the following five winners:

  • iLigtas -- an app that collects data through crowdsourcing via SMS, geotagging, and social media feeds, then creates infographics and provides relevant data to LGUs and NGOs for a more disaster resilient Philippines.
  • AlistoPH -- an incident management and dispatch system, that allows certain agency to keep track incidents and disasters within their specified scope.
  • DisasterHub -- a web app that government agencies (like PAGASA and Project NOAH) and LGUs can use for public warnings joined with a mobile app that serves as a pre- and post-disaster surveying tool.
  • AID System -- this system provides email and text subscription advisory for disaster alert. A registered user can also report disaster events and add contact details of person for his report.
  • E-Ulat -- this app generates post-disaster reports through SMS, from survivors, volunteers and people on the ground.

TechCamp Philippines was a huge success thanks to the passion, dedication and enthusiasm of the participants and organizers. It will no doubt leave a positive mark in making the citizens of Philippines more resilient and better prepared.

About the Authors: Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Jamie Findlater is New Media Advisor, Office of eDiplomacy, Department of State. Pritam Kabe is Technology Analyst, Office of eDiplomacy, Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared on the White House Blog.


Latest Stories

December 10, 2016

Why Human Rights Matter

December 10, marks the 68th annual Human Rights Day in which the United States and countries around the world recall… more