While much of the world has been focused on the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, the number of refugees in Lebanon is actually much higher: more than 1.1 million or about 20 percent of the people currently living in the country. Concerned about the humanitarian situation, a Lebanon-based US entrepreneur named Mike Clarke worked with several UN agencies including UNHCR, UNICEF and OCHA to set up a hackathon designed to come up with technologies that might improve life for the refugees.
More than 70 developers took part in the three-day event, and the judges selected three projects for further development: KwikSense, an Internet of Things (IoT) platform for detecting and monitoring living conditions; Moeeny, a tool designed to help Syrians with banking difficulties; and Vaxy-Nations, a digital health diary.
"We're working on another hackathon. We're literally going to set up a tented settlement in the heart of the Beqaa Valley that's specifically for technologists from Lebanon and around the world who want to come and be completely embedded in the crisis. That will be their space to build, to do focus groups, whatever they need to do," Clarke said. "We need more of this. And what's interesting is there's a lot of people, a lot of engineers, who do want to contribute their skillsets to these types of challenges, but just have a hard time finding an easy way to do it."