Tropo is part of CiscoLearn More

Join Tropo and Geeks Without Bounds for Taarifa Water Hackathon

Posted on May 5, 2014 by Johnny Diggz

Our friends at Geeks Without Bounds are hosting a series of hackathons to try to improve Tanzanian’s access to water.  We’d like to invite you to come hack on data, software (front and back end), hardware, and all the bits between in Cambridge at MIT’s Little Devices on May 7th and 8th (bit.ly/taarifabos), in London May 24th and 25th (bit.ly/taarifalondon), and in Dar es Salaam (bit.ly/taarifadar) May 31st and June 1st.

The Challenge

There’s not much in the way of access to clean water in Tanzania. In the informal settlements, there are a bunch of water points, but many of them are broken. Rather than a continual process of putting in new ones, the local water engineers want to fix the existing ones – but they don’t know where the broken points are. This also prevents large-scale response organizations from accurately deploying resources (and seeing what initiatives are already working).

Our Approach

Through a combination of participatory mapping across a few groups, and water sensors, we think this situation can be bettered. The incoming information would not only feed into the repair cycle and communal awareness, but also into larger governance decisions. Willow Brugh of GWOB put together this in pretty Prezi Pictures.

The Software

taarifa_logoTaarifa is an open source web application for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. It allows people to collect and share their own stories using various mediums such as SMS, Web Forms, Email or Twitter, and then the stories are placed as reports into a workflow. At the event, we will be building out its capabilities and localizing it to Dar es Salaam.

Things we might work on with the software:

  • documentation (tutorial, installation walkthrough, waterpoint demo)
  • general testing (unit, integration, ..)
  • modern UI / dashboard design and development (UX, d3, ..)
  • dummy data generator
  • pretty report generator
  • SMS reporting
  • demo phone reporting app
  • access control & user management (what is needed? how to best implement?)
  • explore relevant standards (e.g., open311) and decide what is useful to support
  • auction model for work/support contracts
  • how to subscribe and notify people of changes to ‘their’ report (Twilio useful?)
  • how to integrate sensor readings? data model?
  • how to deal with report attachments (images, videos, …) currently not supported
  • nice continuous integration setup & auto deploy to heroku when pushing to master
  • exploit linked data for reports, locations, people, and resources where possible

Would also be useful if we had a second use case (besides waterpoints) to double check assumptions and architectures and test the dev experience. Promise tracker?

The Hardware

We’ll be playing with the Riffle (Remote, Independent, and Friendly Field Logger Electronics), a low-cost, open source hardware device that will measure some of the most common water quality parameters, using a design that makes it possible for anyone to build, modify, and deploy water quality sensors in their own neighborhood.

Where Tropo Comes In

We’ve already shown you some cool ways you can use Tropo to interact with hardware such as Chris Matthieu’s SkyNet Internet of Things platform and even a Tropo-powered coffee machine.  We’ve also seen developers integrate Tropo with open source crisis mapping tools like Ushahidi and Sahana, demonstrating how useful the combination of a simple communications API like Tropo can extend the citizen reporting capabilities beyond the web and into voice and SMS.

Why This is Different

I tend to be wary of social good hackathons. At Geeks Without Bounds, we run 1 to 5 internationally every month. Many of the projects are a learning experimentation for the people who attend – which is awesome and worthwhile. Few social good hackathons are for production, however. This one is. Taarifa is already deployed in Ghana and Uganda, and we have a place to deploy in Tanzania. People will use this tool: the few people with feature phones and connectivity, the water engineers and camp staff, and aid organizations.

Where you Come in

We need your skills, questions, and energy. The project is clearly defined, as are the times to work on it. We want you to join us at an event if possible, remotely if you can’t make it in person, and to continue to be a part of the community even after this round of open-source hacking.  Here are the links to sign up:

Boston/Cambridge May 7-8: bit.ly/taarifabos

London May 24-25: bit.ly/taarifalondon

Dar es Salaam May 31-June 1: bit.ly/taarifadar

Leave a Reply