New Space and Tech

NASA And High Tech Partners Host Random Hacks Of Kindness

By Keith Cowing
April 8, 2013
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NASA joined with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and the World Bank Dec. 3-4 to bring together computer experts looking for new approaches to disaster relief challenges. The third Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) event included more than 1,500 software developers, students and disaster risk experts for a “hackathon” at 20 locations around the world. The locations included New York, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv, Nairobi and Bangalore, India.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver joined U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to deliver introductory remarks at the RHoK event in New York. Google Vice President of Research Alfred Spector and RHoK co-founder Patrick Svenburg, director of government platform strategy at Microsoft, also attended.
“The RHoK hackathons provide a forum for innovators to come up with real-world solutions that can make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Garver said. “NASA’s commitment to building on its data and opening it up to other users allows us to expand the tools available for disaster response.”

At a RHoK event in Chicago, a group of hackers worked to create an application that will access mapping data from the Rapid Response Database in NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer project. The team found the publicly available land imagery after visiting NASA’s Open Government website, then worked to create a better interface to select and review the imagery. Response teams could use this tool to more quickly identify areas that may be affected by disasters, such as flooding and forest fires.

The first RHoK event was held in Mountain View, Calif., in November 2009. The event resulted in applications that were used after the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile to help identify survivors and help rescuers find them. The second RHoK hackathon took place simultaneously in six countries in June.

For more details about RHoK events, visit:

For information about NASA’s Open Government Initiative, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:   

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.