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Médecins Sans Frontières and Random Hacks of Kindness


The internet, mobile phones and technology can help solve complex problems and change our world. From the maps of Kenyan slums fed via the mobile phones of the people living there, to virtual market places for nomadic farmers selling cattle by text, we can use technology to change lives.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has partnered with Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) to design and develop a practical, technical tool to solve a real problem we face in the field and to improve our work on the front line of humanitarianism.

“...making the world a better place by developing practical, open source technology solutions to respond to some of the most complex challenges facing humanity...” RHoK

The Event

Over one weekend in June 2013 thousands of digital experts in over 30 countries will donate their skills and time to tackle a problem set by MSF. They will apply their collective brain power to design a solution that will work in the parts of the world where MSF acts, that will benefit our staff and patients, and which will be delivered free of charge and ready to use.

The Peace Corps, Amnesty International, Transparency International and the Red Cross have all benefited from this powerful creative partnership. Now it is the turn of MSF to access this incredible network.

The Challenge

The challenge set for the RHoK volunteers will be designed by MSF. Anyone working for MSF can submit their idea online http://msfchallenge.herokuapp.com or in an email to Ben Holt in the MSF UK office (ben.holt@london.msf.org).  

A group from MSF, including experienced field staff, digital experts and operational managers, will work with the RHoK team to select the challenge or key themes for June’s ‘hackathon’. The hackers will get to work over the weekend, with MSF staff on hand to inspire, inquire and inspect the outcomes.

To show what is possible, here are some problems that have been ‘hacked’ at past events:

The Impact

The impact will only be limited by the ambition of the idea. If we identify a genuine need and a specific area of MSF’s field work, research or patient care that would benefit from this kind of technical solution, we can expect to change MSF for the better.

We could generate something which streamlines our logistics process, helps medical record keeping, speeds up reporting or amplifies the voices of our patients. The potential is huge, but we need the movement to get behind this project, to suggest ideas and to scrutinise the results.

RHoK has a great track record delivering practical, useful and well made solutions.

The Hacking community

These hackers are computer experts who use their skills to make the world a better place. They are not breaking in to computers – they are creating new ideas.

RHoK have a clear mission and vision. They believe:

  • “People around the world have time and skills that they will dedicate to making the world a better place, given the opportunity.”
  • “International collaboration opens doors to new ways of looking at challenges, understanding common problems, and helps create a global human community.”

There is clear common ground between their outlook and MSF.