Hackathon in Ukraine: Making sure every voice is heard

two young men at their computers

How do you ensure people’s safety and security in a conflict situation?  How do you select the most reliable sources of information in an overcrowded media environment? How do you mobilize and cooperate effectively with friends, colleagues, and neighbours when conflict does arise?


These were just a few of the timely issues taken on by young Ukrainian innovators at the national hackathon on communications and human security in conflict situations.


This two-day event, organized by the State Council of National Security and Defence, UNDP in Ukraine and Social Boost brought together more than 80 civic activists, IT specialists, web designers and journalists to develop over 20 innovative projects and prototypes to enhance public safety and security in Ukraine.


Three winning ideas each came with a grant of US $1,000 to help complete the projects and pilot the prototypes. According to Denis Gursky of Social Boost, similar hackathons will also be conducted in Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk and Odessa later this year.


In her opening remarks, Victoria Syumar, Ukraine’s Deputy Head of the National Security and Defence Council remarked:


“We hope that 24 hours of non-stop creativity will result in real innovations. We hope that the participants will develop new software that would help to establish an effective public control over public officials and to identify corruption loopholes. Corruption undermines trust in public institutions, and there can be no sustainable public administration and security without the trust of citizens.”


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Participant Alexander Rybak’s winning project was called “Swiss knife.” It is a mobile app that gathers information from government agencies and informs users about potential threats: from military action to natural and man-made disasters. The app will provide a wealth of practical information on preparedness, including how to find the nearest civil defense shelter in the event of an emergency. He said:


“For me, the hackathon was not just an excellent opportunity to test my ideas, but also to share them with civic activists like me and try out my skills. The issue of information and personal security is especially timely and urgent for Ukraine today and I am happy that I can contribute and be part of the solution.”


Valery Reshetar’s winning idea was called “B-beeper” - it’s also a mobile app but this one works to map danger spots and inform the user of potential threats and safety measures. According to Valery, hackathons are instrumental in helping social activists find like-minded people:


“The hackathon gave our team a push to get together, generate an idea, develop a project and bring it to life. In the next couple of days, the first version of the mobile app and the website will be ready. It will be an indispensable tool for emergencies when traditional means of communications are not accessible, as is often the case during conflicts.”


Innovation has long been a focus of the UNDP in Ukraine. Since 2012, UNDP has supported over 30 initiatives like this as part of its mission to help the country become more connected, transparent, inclusive and corruption-free.


As UNDP in Ukraine Resident Representative, Alessandra Tisot remarked at the event's closing:

“Ukraine has very creative, self-reliant and empowered citizens, many of whom are also IT savvy. UNDP salutes your efforts and stands ready to support you in your efforts to use information technology and innovation to build a new Ukraine where no one is left behind and each voice is heard.”