Facebook Exec Hacks for a Cause: Typhoon Haiyan [Video]

Singapore-based Facebook exec Kai Elmer Sotto is the man behind Hack for a Cause.

It’s a hackathon he started two years ago in Canada where developers gather to code overnight for twelve hours, from 6pm. They must — in geek terminology — “ship” or complete their products by 6am the following day.

And those “products” need to be practical in solving a particular cause.

In November, typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and killed thousands of people.

Within four days, close to 60 coders gathered in Manila and Cebu to participate in Hack for a Cause.

Engineers including those from the local telecom companies Globe and SMART stayed up all night to lend their mobile and SMS expertise for the cause.

After twelve hours of solid coding (fueled by lots of Jollibee food), the participants were able to integrate six products as a result. Click to view the full list here.

For example, the Reliefboard is a bulletin board that helps people connect to the world in times of calamities. It allows users to post real-time updates via sms or directly on the site to share relief status or searching for missing friends and family.

Before the hackathon, all the products were working independently, Sotto says.

However, the hackathon brought rival telco companies together to collaborate and build an API for sms calls that integrated into a newly built API throughout the night. 

Watch this video as Sotto talks about the highlights of Hack for a Cause and his insights from leveraging social technology for social good.

As Sotto writes on the office’s wall, the elements needed to change the world are Idealism (dreams) + pragmatism (action) + technology at scale + Facebook mobile. 

He also notes that these hackathons are conducted outside of office hours. 

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