2015 May MIT

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Ever wanted to know about, or work on, disaster and humanitarian response technology from a people-first perspective? Aspiration's #HumTechFest strives to build capacity for humanitarian aid and disaster response efforts through technology and community. These are participatory and community-driven convenings designed for field practitioners, media makers and storytellers, technology developers, information security practitioners, members of affected populations, researchers, and everyone in between. The agenda is co-developed with participants, facilitators, and partners in the time leading up and during the event.

Please check out our Participant Guidelines before the event.

Date: May 9+10

Location: MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA

Registration Link: http://humtechinteract.eventbrite.com

Universe of Topics

Data Collection

  • What's the good, bad, and ugly of data collection
  • how do we handle privacy/security in high-vulnerability times?
  • Data from community should be usable by the community
  • How to make it easier for different tech to work together


  • How technology can improve coordination after a disaster
  • how to get people excited about tech for manageing data
  • how do we share canvasing data and keep it secure?
  • how do we bake consent culture into disaster and humanitarian efforts?


  • How can communities hold responders/NGOs/etc accountable?
  • When is a good time to leave the disaster area as a humanitarian?
  • How to better support local info responders? (eg Kathmandu Living Lab)?
  • scale systems while keeping them personal
  • How might we learn from local populations in a state of emergency


  • How to make info resilience (lists of NGOs, shelters, existing communities) normal everywhere?
  • How can we be proactive about disasters rather than reactive
  • Lessons learned from response to Ebola Crisis in West Africa
  • Best methods to teach people
  • how to encourage people to get training before a disaster instead of volunteering after a disaster
  • Breaking down resilience and how that term is carried out
  • How to keep attention for long-term needs
  • Looking at topics through the lends of urban planning and city infrastructure

Local capacity and volunteers

  • For-profit social good vs nonprofit/humanitarian
  • how formal and informal groups can work together
  • Is it possible to support frontline communities without being disruptive?
  • ways to teach/trigger curiosity
  • Better/more efficient tech for first responders (EMT/Police/Fire)


  • How to improve connecti ity after a disaster
  • How do we get info to affected people in low bandwidth environments (eg SMS)?


  • How to hack-proof wireless tech
  • Systematic support for targets of cyberstalking?
  • how to reduce cost of forensic analysis of hacked IT equipment


  • Best way to display information and data
  • What is the role of simulation and tech like Oculus Rift?
  • What is the user journey of an emergency (1 day, 1 week, 1 month in)


  • Philanthropy isn't sustainable.
    • Capitalism is a self-fueling machine
    • Libraries
  • We have all the tech we need -- we need to solve the problems at hand.
  • Private companies should be responsible for assisting in emergencies.
  • We already have enough tech solutions.
  • People are not comfortable enough with technology to use it in stressful/emergency situations.

Discussion Topics/Breakouts

  • Data and Ethics: overview of what response is like, 3W (who, what, where) for situational awareness, and bottlenecks. How data is generated, parsed, and made use of (or not).
  • Occupy Sandy: some components of how OS worked, including social media, coordination channels, tech used, and bridging the formal and informal.
  • Data Standards:
  • Template for HotWash:
  • Public Labs and Consent: background on Public Lab, focus on upcoming formaldehyde levels project, how to break down the gap between scientists and other humans.
  • Online Safety: discussion of how people can be safer, online and off, as well as accountability for those who endanger safety.
  • Consent: is anything different about consent in a disaster situation than in less dire circumstances?


Things to Peruse Further

Accountability mechanisms between frontline communities and responders -- do they exist? Should we make them?

  • External NGOs 'helping' and then leaving without leaving ongoing support is disruptive
  • Citizen-centric data model