TechCamp is a program under Secretary Clinton’s Civil Society (CS) 2.0 initiative – an effort to galvanize the technology community to assist CS organizations across the globe by providing capabilities, resources and assistance to enable CS organizations (CSOs) to harness the latest ICT advances to build their digital capacity. TechCamp Santiago was the first or “proof of concept” TechCamp, and took place in the Telefónica building in Santiago, Chile, on November 20.

TechCamp Santiago Overview: Initial Introductions

Location and Participants: TechCamp Santiago took place in the top floors of the Telefónica building on November 20. Representatives from civil society organizations across the Americas traveled thousands of miles to Santiago, Chile for a November 20th conference to discuss ways technology can be used to empower their grassroots efforts. They were partnered with over 20 local technologists from Chile and 8 technologists from the US. TechCamp:Santiago, the first event of its kind sponsored by the State Department, launched Secretary Clinton’s Civil Society 2.0 initiative, the goal of which is to create a self-sustaining movement to connect organizations committed to social good with technology based tools and volunteers to increase their digital literacy, resilience, and impact in the 21st century.

TechCamp: Santiago kicked off with a welcome from Ricardo Faundez, the Executive Director of Digitales por Chile, a tech organization created to help the victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile in February 2010. Digitales por Chile embodies the mission of Civil Society 2.0 to facilitate the operation of social projects promoted by organizations through the coordination of volunteers and companies by leveraging tech-based tools to reach wider networks and share more information, thereby achieving greater social good.

Continuing the welcome, the DCM at AmEmbassy Santiago, Buddy Williams, encouraged TechCamp participants by lauding their organizations’ work as integral to U.S. priorities in the region, mentioning efforts at increasing capacity for “environmental protection, disaster response, economic opportunity, and democratic transparency.” He also pointed to the Embassy’s extensive use of social media tools in its outreach efforts.

TechCamp: Santiago then connected via video conference with AmEmbassy Jakarta where civil society organizations, tech experts, and members of the RHoK community had gathered to offer encouragement. AmEmbassy Jakarta’s participants detailed how social media applications helped Indonesian citizens share information and locate emergency relief supplies in the aftermath of the Mt. Merapi volcanic explosions. Commenting on the Civil Society 2.0 initiative, Dr. Ole Nielsen, Director of the Jakarta Chapter of the RHoK, said, “I have been waiting more than 15 years for the civil society groups to partner with technology for the benefit of humankind.”

Problem definitions generated from TechCamp: Santiago were used by RHoK Jakarta and the 20 other global RHoK locations during the December 4thand 5th “Hacking for Humanity” workshop.

The Secretary’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, Alec Ross, addressed the TechCamp audience on the State Department’s role in Civil Society 2.0. Ross touched on Secretary Clinton’s lifelong commitment to advancing civil society organizations and the critical role technology can play in advancing these grassroots efforts. Ross said, “The Secretary’s vision of Civil Society 2.0 is embodied in TechCamp – in which we convene and help empower civil society groups to get the hands-on training they need to better execute against their missions in the 21st century. In an increasingly networked world, it is essential that civil society organizations have the tools they need to compete and succeed.”

TechCamp Santiago Event Overview: Details

The vast majority of TechCamp: Santiago was interactive, collaborative and engaging as participants broke into small groups to discuss specific issues ranging from democracy, transparency and civic engagement; risk management and disaster response; health, medicine and disease control; and increasing economic opportunity. The groups worked together to define each issue and brainstorm how technology could play a role in addressing specific challenges faced by civil society organizations.

Once the groups defined the problem sets, each group then presented their specific problem and a proposed technology based solution to the larger group. The problem definitions developed at TechCamp:Santiago can be found here.

For example, one of the Brazilian participants planned to implement some of the tools he learned about at TechCamp in his work to empower youth in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Another participant from Juarez, Mexico is incorporating ideas from the workshop on how to take back his community from narco-traffickers. A third participant planned on using the mapping technology she discovered at TechCamp to give a voice to indigenous Ecuadorians that presently do not have a way of sharing information on dangerous oil well sites and potential landslide areas near their villages.
Random Acts of Kindess Event on December 4th and 5th

Following TechCamp, the problem definitions developed at TechCamp:Santiago were provided to the Random Hacks of Kindness organition, which holds bi-annual worldwide hackathons where volunteer programmers congregate to code for social good efforts. Shortly after TechCamp:Santiago, RHoK held a hackathon on December 4-5, where 15 problem definitions from TechCamp were submitted in both English and Spanish for programmers across the world to work on.