GEO Indigenous COVID-19 Hackathon 2020

Blog / May 25, 2020

Take action on COVID-19 and indigenous empowerment using Earth observations and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) from 5-7 June 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already posing a grave threat to communities around the world.  Indigenous Peoples’ livelihoods, health and wellbeing is threatened as many communities face challenges related to access to health services, information, and food insecurity as remote communities often depend on outside supplies for sustenance. Digital inclusion has never been more urgent and necessary, as many of these challenges can be tackled using Earth observations, space assets and ICTs.

GEO is announcing the  GEO Indigenous COVID-19 Hackathon 2020: Join Indigenous communities in this crowdsourcing challenge to co-design their own, culturally appropriate, ICT solutions to tackle COVID-19 - virtually from home! 

Register here to participate

The project involves developing a series of virtual hackathons in various Indigenous and under-represented communities with the intent of co-designing locally relevant EO-based challenges that are culturally appropriate to indigenous beliefs and conceptions about diseases. The challenges will then become part of the GEO INDIGENOUS COVID-19 HACKATHON 2020 that will take place during June 2020 in which anyone from around the world will be able to participate and come up with innovative solutions.

The event will use a format successfully developed during GEOHACK19GEOSS/HACK 2018, and the Arctic Citizen Science hackathons by and for Indigenous Peoples that were co-designed with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, Geoscience Australia, the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), the University of Alaska Southeast and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). This Hackathon has been organized by the GEO Secretariat, the GEO Indigenous Alliance: Diana Mastracci, Titus Letaapo, Mario Vargas Shakaim, James Rattling Leaf Sr., Indigenous leaders Claudinete Cole and Leo Cerda and the wider GEO community.

Learn more about the Indigenous Leaders involved in the Hackathon here.

The primary goals of this project are to:

  • Raise awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ specific needs and priorities in tackling COVID-19;
  • Enhance local capacity among Indigenous communities to support local efforts towards building resilience;
  • Promote the use of open EO data among Indigenous communities to address issues associated with COVID-19 and longer-term problems;
  • Enhance and strengthen Indigenous/local culture through the use of EO data and ICTs;
  • Improve cross-cultural communication among local communities, scientists, health services, and data providers;
  • Provide the GEO community (through the GEO Indigenous Alliance) with novel approaches to utilize EO data to address the current pandemic at a local scale
  • Deliver innovative solutions using online crowdsourcing platforms and ICTs 

Who should participate - and why?

Indigneous leaders interested in connecting with other leaders from around the world addressing similar challenges to the current pandemic and other persistent and emerging challenges faced by the communities they represent.

Indigenous youth interested to work with Inidgenous leaders in co-designing challenges for the hackathon and/or to participate in the final event as hackers.

EO experts interested in contributing their expertise to an urgent issue and engaging with a network of EO experts from around the world. Mentors will help to guide participants to address the challenges, both from a technical and socio-cultural perspective.

Scientists and practitioners who work with indigenous peoples who are interested in contributing their expertise and experience to ensure indigneous participants rights are fully protected throughout the event and that all volunteers, experts, and hackers are aware of protocols to ensure protections.

Community volunteers and professionals who have experience connecting communities through communications and promotion of the event through their networks.

Everyone with an interest in solving real-world challenges is welcome to participate as “hackers” in the final hackathon. All backgrounds are welcome and are encouraged to apply.

Register here to participate

Timeline for the Hackathon:

Major milestones and deliverables will be based on a phased schedule. Milestones 1-3 follow an iterative approach where the community and the crowd are consulted on a regular basis.

Milestone 1 (May 1-31 2020) Community Engagement I

  • Identify indigenous communities around the world to partner with  the hackathon;
  • Identify a local ally to work with the community to ensure cultural good practices are followed throughout the project;
  • Use of social media to promote the project (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) and request supporters to promote with their networks;
  • Introduce and refine this project with the communities;
  • Recruit EO data experts/scientists willing to act as mentors;
  • Development of online resources (e.g. website/blog/hub) to provide a forum for the local community to communicate with scientists or other volunteers and keep the project information accessible and up-to-date; and
  • Identify plan for self-sustainment of project after conclusion.
  • Planning to safeguard participants with plans in place to protect the communities and in regard to collecting data from the communities.

Milestone 2 (May 31- June 4 2020) Community and Crowd Engagement II 

  • Co-design online local hackathons together with the community and mentors
  • Co-design online final hackathon with challenges presented by communities 

Milestone 3 (June 5-7 2020) Community and Crowd Engagement - Hackathon

  • Global Hackathon with community leaders and hack teams;
  • Provide support to hackers and community to finalize their solutions and applications; 
  • Identify how the new applications and combined data products could feed into the GEO Knowledge Hub and GEOSS Platform.

Milestone 4 (July 2020) Final Report and Evaluation

  • Present summaries and reports to the local communities;
  • Initial plan for self-sustainment of project after conclusion of award; and
  • Online resources developed during the project will provide a forum for volunteers to communicate with scientists and other volunteers after the conclusion of the project

Project Team

  • Diana Mastracci 
  • GEO Secretariat - Steven Ramage, Theadora Mills 
  • GEO community - Laurent Durieux, IRD France
  • Vasco Marcus van Roosmalen (ECAM)
  • FAO (tc)
  • AIT Entrepreneurship Center http://ec.ait.ac.th/
  • Earth Hacks
  • Gautam Dadhich 
  • Karyn Tabor (Conservation International)
  • NASA
  • ESA

Indigenous Representatives

  • Titus Letaapo- (Samburu Tribe, Kenya)
  • James Rattling Leaf Sr- (Rosebud Sioux Tribe, US)
  •  Mario Vargas (Shakaim)- (Indigenous Shuar, Ecuador)
  • Claudinete Cole - Quilombola Leader from the Trombetas region of the Brazilian Amazon (https://schedule.sxsw.com/2019/speakers/2008989)/
  • Chief Almir Surui (tbc) - Chief of the Surui people of the Brazilian Amazon
  • Leo Cerda (Indigenous Kichwa, Ecuador) 

Mentors (Global Indigenous Alliance, NASA, the European Space Agency, CI, The Mobile Collective, European Citizen Science Association) 

  • Stephanie Russo Carroll (Global Indigenous Alliance)
  • Brian Fuchs (The Mobile Collective)
  • Margaret Gold (ECSA)
  • David Jensen (UNEP)
  • Dr. Jorge Vazquez (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech)

Join us in co-designing tools that include Indigenous Peoples’ specific needs and priorities in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, read the Frequently Asked Questions here.

To get involved, email Diana Mastracci: diana.mastracci.sanchez@gmail.com 



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