Is Your Voice Missing in the Tech Talk Conversation?

Like a lot of us, I frequently find myself feeling unnecessarily distanced from the tech world. New advancements can feel like they're moving faster than I can get a real handle on them. Classes and courses seem like they require a set of skills that I don't necessarily have. Again and again, tech designated spaces appear to be filled with well-connected startup entrepreneurs and coders who—though brimming with bright ideas—have what can sometimes seem like very little interest in making tech relatable to citizens in ever-diversifying neighborhoods.

What makes me different from some folks is that I haven't let these challenges keep me from believing that technology is a tool for creating radical change in our everyday lives—and I don't believe that you should either.

I see our differences and difficulties not as barriers but, rather, teachable moments wherein we all have much to learn. In today's urban environments, between transportation and housing demands, food and produce needs, education and civic development growth opportunities, each and every one of us has a wealth of knowledge to share—starting with our needs. For me, Hack City—a Cleanweb hackathon focusing on solving Bay Area urban citizens' transportation, energy, and resource pain points—has served as a microcosmic classroom for just this type of education.

This past weekend (September 20-22, 2013), Hack City brought together a diverse set of executives, entrepreneurs, technologists, investors, policy experts, and everyday people to learn from one another and solve real problems impacting citizens across race, gender, class, and more. Presented by Salesforce, and in partnership with Code for America, Karma Wi-fi, Impact HUB Oakland, Neighborland, Caravan Studios, Architecture for Humanity San Francisco and more, participants endeavored to demonstrate our ability to leverage data we have about our behavior in buildings in order to increase efficiency, and ultimately cut costs.

Participants were able to make use of input data provided by the White House DOE's Buildings Performance Databasea project built in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, enabling any user to:

... compare performance trends among similar buildings to identify and prioritize cost-saving energy efficiency improvements and assess the range of likely savings from these improvements.


In addition, the weekend also featured the Hack City Data Jam, a six-hour freestyle brainstorm including representatives from Architecture for Humanity, both the City of San Francisco's Disaster Management office and Planning Department, an active duty Army serviceman, and a variety of local stakeholders, addressing the newly passed Soft Story Ordinance in San Francisco (SSO). The mandate, signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee in April of this year, requires roughly 4,300 building owners to undergo evaluation by a licensed engineer or architect in order to assess whether their properties are susceptible to soft story failure.

With a lot of listening, and even more learning, and an intentional cross-pollination of "techies" and community members, we came away from the weekend-long event with participants forming a resilient city challenge committee, dedicated to continuing work on prepping the Bay Area for potential community-wide disasters. On top of that, we also built some really cool apps.

Not entirely convinced that an app can really change the way you live or impact your sustainable efforts? Check out our first-prize winner (who also won for best reuse of existing code): EnviraAudit, a mobile application for Environmental Auditors to track the energy use intensity (EUI) for their buildings, as well as predict the effects of various retrofits. Second prize went to Retrofitta (also awarded most creative app), a crowd-funding platform for energy-efficient retrofits. It actually analyzes ROI for potential investors.

Aside from cool technology, what I saw emerge from Hack City was new and game-changing conversation and knowledge. I believe that this can continue with everyday people, like you and I, feeling empowered to both make our voices heard and believe that technology can meet all of our needs. After all, shouldn't "tech talk" include those it intends to serve?

If you'd like more info on apps and Hack City 2013 or to get involved and talk about how to leverage technology in your city, contact me at hello[at]KrysFreeman[dot]com.

Image courtesy of Krys Freeman

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less