​Hackathon For Cuba Information Access

Author: John LesterBy:
Staff Reporter
Aug. 6, 2014

It’s a Hackathon inspired by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and about 40 computer programmers who gathered on Feb. 1 for South Florida. The event is taking place at The LAB Miami in Wynwood.

The challenge: Problems with connectivity, censorship, extremely costly service and the lowest cellphone and Internet penetration rates in the Western Hemisphere regularly limit information access in Cuba, according to the Miami Herald.

Given those conditions, devise tech solutions for Cubans to disseminate information. “This is not your typical hackathon,” said Raul Moas, executive director of the nonprofit Roots of Hope. Roots of Hope, which is producing the hackathon, is a network of college students and young professionals who aim to empower Cuban youth through technology and entrepreneurial support.

On Friday night, the free hackathon kicked off with a opening party attended by more than 100. It included a few remarks from Sanchez, via video because she had to leave unexpectedly Friday morning. Sanchez said Cubans desperately need innovative apps to disseminate information. She also said she hopes to soon see the next hackathon not in Miami — but in Cuba.

On Saturday morning, powered by coffee and carbs, the diehard techies broke into teams and got down to work. Many of the ideas were centered on creating apps that use email to disseminate the information, which obviously seems quite primitive for this group. “You have to challenge yourself to think outside the box,” said Moas. “We’re taking a step back in time to move forward.”

Saturday night, the teams will present their ideas to judges and win prizes.

Roots of Hope also wants to hold Hackathon for Cuba events in San Francisco and New York later in the year.

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