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Flood Hack: developing solutions

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Flood Hack 2014

Last weekend, I joined a few GDS colleagues and around 200 developers, designers, emergency responders and entrepreneurs at Google Campus for a last-minute hackathon to help everyone affected by the floods.

The hack

The day of rapid prototyping was hosted by Tech City, helped by participation from Facebook, Conversocial, Twitter, Microsoft, Datasift, Twilio, Nominet Trust, TechHub, Taskhub, Shoothill, SessionDigital and InviqaGoogle. GDS colleagues worked with the Environment Agency to quickly publish additional data on floods for everyone to use.

The groups produced some wonderful tools to help residents in flooded areas, volunteers, public sector groups responding on the ground, and even developers themselves. The projects are covered in more depth by Tech City’s write-up and the page we built on the day.

Hastily formed #floodhack plan by Paul Downey
Hastily formed #floodhack plan by Paul Downey

How it went

Given that the whole event was organised in a day and a half, I was amazed at the result; many people had gave up half their weekend to muck in. Companies pitched in with food, a venue, APIs and prizes. The energy in the room was palpable; brainstorming in newly-formed teams, scrawling wireframes on paper and typing out lines of code.

I’ll admit I’m a veteran of hack days, but this one was special to me; it was to help our friends, family and fellow Brits who are underwater, or facing rebuilding. The projects were focused on meeting the needs of users in the middle of it. The “build it, ship it, iterate it” approach should make these projects even more useful for them. It reminded me of the kind of agile development we’re committed to at GDS.

It was a good days work from the skills of many different people in our community. Digital technology may not be the solution to every problem, but where we can connect people to timely information or to each other, it’s wonderful to help it happen. I hope these projects can be continued, expanded and improved; the world needs them.

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  1. Comment by Martha Garvey posted on

    Sending you support from Hoboken, NJ, where we are still working hard to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

  2. Comment by karen silver posted on

    this is wonderful - nice developing and great idea 🙂

  3. Comment by Kevin Rapley posted on

    I commend everyone who took part in this hackathon and sparing their free time to make a difference. However, looking at the page you built in a day, most (if not all) the projects appear to be reactive to a flood rather than preventative. Essentially, if the Environment Agency had ploughed enough money into flood defences, and updated their working practices with the types of flood control the Netherlands has in its repertoire, the reactive digital application ideas invented here would not be necessary. I feel the crux of the problem has been completely overlooked.

  4. Comment by francis posted on

    This is absolutely fascinating - so much in such a short time!