Hack the Change: SMS-powered election monitoring app Monitor Squared wins international development hackathon - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 20, 2012 10:54 am

Hack the Change: SMS-powered election monitoring app Monitor Squared wins international development hackathon

After a full weekend-long hackathon in which NGOs and engineers collaborated to design apps to address international development policy challenges, Monitor Squared, an SMS-powered election monitoring application emerged with the victory at Hack the Change. Technically Philly previewed the event here. The Twilio-based app, which was built on the open source Ushahidi platform, is designed […]

Hack the Change underway at Venturef0rth. Photo Courtesy of Ted Drake via Flickr

After a full weekend-long hackathon in which NGOs and engineers collaborated to design apps to address international development policy challenges, Monitor Squared, an SMS-powered election monitoring application emerged with the victory at Hack the Change.

Technically Philly previewed the event here.

The Twilio-based app, which was built on the open source Ushahidi platform, is designed to allow administrators to keep track of election monitors during sensitive elections in developing countries. Faye Anderson, a public policy and social media consultant who also runs the Cost of Freedom project, Joseph Tricarico, a Rutgers student and software developer intern at Callowhill-based GIS development shop Azavea, and Bennet Huber, a software developer also from Azavea made up the winning team.

Updated Mar 20, 2012: Sody Peter, a Senior Test Designer at Vertex Inc 2 and Sagi E. Shkedy, an independent consultant at Simplicity Consulting Inc., were also on the Monitor Squared team.

As part of the prize, the group will go on to showcase at the next Random Hacks of Kindness in May.

Text messaging played a central role in the second and third place apps, as well. Many of the apps were built using Twilio, YQL and Cloudmine, because representatives participated as mentors, Pratham Mittal, a Penn student and one of the lead organizers, told Technically Philly.

 The second place finisher was PNP Alerts, also an SMS-based app that leverages mobile phones to sprea alerts and sensitive information between villages in underdeveloped countries. The app, built by Eliot Baker, Graham Smith and James Connor Jr., is designed to replace the tradition of banging pots and pans when rebel armies or militias attack a remote village in order to alert other neighboring villages.

In third place, the Twilio-powered Text the Change was designed to allows people to send petitions to their local representative via their cell phones. The idea is to bypass email to increase the rate of petitions being made and increase the visibility of those petitions.

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Other apps that demo’d include, GovLoop, Smoke4aCause, Abelian, Impulsave, Memento, Twilio Food Banks, and Starter according to Rob Spectre (@DN0t) via Twitter.

The intense three-day hackathon drew about 60 people, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. Throughout the weekend, organizers tweeting from @HacktheChange offered up various challenges to the participants, including a chocolate onion eating challenge, a hot sauce-filled Boston Kreme donut eating challenge, and a challenge to name the capitals of Zimbabwe and Zaire.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Headd

Venturef0rth, the new coworking space in Callowhill, provided the hospitality, including desks and couches. The student-led Penn Society for International Development (PennSID) organized the entire event.

“It fulfilled our vision of not only making interesting and socially impactful apps but also bringing two markedly different people, engineers and NGOs, together and making them interact,” said Mittal. “We were able to make engineers think from an NGO’s perspective and NGOs think from an engineer’s perspective.”

The most tweeted line from the weekend?

“I haven’t changed my underwear since yesterday, but I am changing the world.”

You can continue to track the progress of Monitor Squared when the team appears at Random Hacks of Kindness coming up in May.

You can watch a recording of the UStream livestream that was available during the demos below:

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