Hack the Climate: Business Unusual

In the science-dominated field of climate change, there is a gap between the technical solutions to climate-related risks and the people who most need to use them. In an effort to bridge the divide, the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation, Inc. launched Hack the Climate: Business Unusual.

The country’s first eco-centric hackathon—themed “Responsible business adaptation and its benefits to community resilience”—hosted over a hundred students and professionals who brought fresh eyes to the challenge of coming up with creative responses to climate risks.

Over the course of three days, participants were guided by both experienced IT mentors and scientists from the OML Center, working together to ensure that the groups’ end products were both technically substantial and built on appropriate scientific concepts. The teams also drew ideas from the talks held on the first day of the event, when notable speakers from the public and private sectors, academe, and civil society touched on how adaptive solutions can play key roles in their respective sectors.

Monica’s Minions, the winning group and recipient of the grand prize of P100,000, developed an interactive disaster adaptation app called KASALI. The program addresses climate change adaptation by tackling two disaster app weaknesses: no one downloads them, and no one understands the information they provide.

To address the former, the app leverages the popularity of noontime TV, with hosts incentivizing users to download and use the app. This allows the app to collect and report demographic information about users to authorities for disaster risk evaluation. KASALI then addresses the latter with an approachable user interface: when a potential disaster strikes, it relays data from official sources like Project Noah and PAGASA to users, and an algorithm developed at the hackathon turns this into geo-targeted, easily understandable information. The app then alerts users of danger and directs their next steps, such as informing them of the nearest evacuation center.

The KASALI team is made up of Mac Valmores, formerly of Project Noah, Ely Apao, who worked with the Lasallian Institute for the Environment, Nelson Dolot, who ran IOT Workshops through FASTECH and USAID STRIDE, Lorenzo Miguel Villalon, who was a part of MercyCorps Shared Agent Network Program and USAID ePeso SAN Accelerator, and lead by Monica Labbao, a previous HackLab Winner.

Team 220 came in second place with an app called Med Prep, which strives to enable a proactive health sector. After storms or other weather-related calamities hit, LGUs, hospitals, and pharmacies may not be prepared to deal with the high number of affected individuals. Med Prep aims to solve this problem by giving the health sector predictions on how many might be affected in an area at a given time. To make these predictions, the app uses neural networks that make use of weather information, historical medical data, socio-economic status, and sizes of age groups of the area. The predictions, which improve over time, can be used by both the private and public sector to know in advance where to send personnel and medicine. Med Prep was developed by Dexter Enrick Edep and Dale Wilson Garcia, who took home a prize of P50,000.

The winners were chosen by a panel of judges who reviewed their products based on technical soundness, originality, viability, and impact/relevance. In addition to the two winning teams, the OML Center is also working with other groups interested in applying for incubation grants under the Center’s Resilience Grants program.

Hack the Climate: Business Unusual was held from September 16 to 18, 2016 at PLDT Innolab. The event was organized by Red Wizard Events Management in partnership with ANC for television coverage.