Earlier this year I attended Startup AddVenture 2013 in Kiev. Normally tech startup conferences consist of speeches, pitches, panels and networking events. This time, however, there was an added element – major social upheaval just around the corner. [UPDATE: See update below].
In nearby Independence Square, there was a massive protest in favour of the Ukraine joining the European Union. It was ironic. Only a couple of hours away by plane Greeks had been rioting to get OUT of the European Union, with its heavy austerity measures. But what was happening in Kiev was different, and closely affected by the politics surrounding Russia in the 21st century. The Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych had, at the last minute, reneged on negotiations for the Ukraine to strengthen commercial and political integration with the European Union, to opt instead for closer ties with the Moscow-dominated Russian trading block. That brought thousands of protesters onto the streets.
It certainly charged the atmosphere of the conference, and many of us went down to see the protests on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) to take in the atmosphere. Technology has become an intimate part of social movements, and already the #EuroMaidan hashtag on Twitter had sparked international interest and media coverage of the movement.
Since then the protests have continued, and the waves of social media around the protests have exposed police beatings of protesters and journalists alike.
Involved from the beginning, now technology people are rallying. Today, hackers from across Ukraine have gathered for the “IT Hamet” Hackathon being organised by the “IT tent” based at the Euromaidan protest, the Kiev co-working space Chasopys, and the startup community in Kiev.
The aim is to create “instruments of public assistance” for Ukrainians. In other words, to improve the life of the Ukrainian citizen, their relationship with the state and aid their participation in significant public decisions.
Amid all this political upheaval, tech people are seizing the moment to create better democratic tools.
Participants will be presenting their ideas and projects. Teams will then form, and approximately 15 projects will be selected for concentrated development. Then the work will begin.
On Sunday night the teams will present their hacks and we’ll update this post with links to the projects created.
Of course, hackathons can sometimes be marathon affairs with little in the way of “action.”
But it’s fascinating to watch what will be produced, in the middle of what — to many at least — is a revolution.
Here’s the live feed:
The winner of the hackathon was CharryTea.org a platform for volunteers to coordinate their activities. It was build for gathering and delivering items (such as warm clothes, tea and cookies) to charity centres in Kiev, an soon across Ukraine. Anyone who wants to give some old stuff for charity can leave a application on cherrytea.org and then drivers with cars (volunteers) pick up it and deliver it to charity points.
It has also been used during the Euromaidan Protest, delivering more than 600 kg of warm clothes from more than 100 people and more than 3000 cups of hot tea for street children in Kiev.
Here are some more videos from the event: