#HackSociety 2017: Using tech to help the marginalized
MANILA, Philippines – How can we use media and new technologies to help strengthen democracy and empower the marginalized sectors of society?
From a chatbot which makes legal processes more comprehensible to apps which help persons with disabilities (PWDs), 5 finalists pitched their ideas during the second day of #HackSociety 2017, the ideathon that aimed to crowdsource "hacks" or innovative solutions to today's pressing social problems. (READ: HIGHLIGHTS: #HackSociety Day 1)
Here are the ideas pitched during the semi-finals held on Friday, September 15.
PWDs remain a marginalized sector in society, with many still subject to discrimination and lacking ample access to opportunities and ease of mobility.
But compounding the problem is the lack of data on the number of PWDs in the country because the 2015 national census did not include questions on disability. Team Eleartech wants to address this gap by tapping the youth and volunteers to gather information on PWDs in the country. Through a smartphone app, users will be asked to answer a survey. The data will then go towards building up a database on the number of PWDs and the specific problems they face.
The team believes that with this data, there will be a clearer picture on how many people need help with hearing, visual aids, or mobility, for instance. Government units and private establishments can then help address PWDs' specific needs through this information.
Getting around malls, offices, and other establishments can be difficult for PWDs, especially if these places don't have wheelchair ramps, elevators, or other facilities to help ease of mobility. With about 1.4 million PWDs in the Philippines, this team of Philippine Science High School students aim to develop a platform that will share and store information about PWD-friendly places around the metro.
Project Auxilium features an online database containing crowdsourced information about elevators, wheelchair ramps, and other PWD-friendly access facilities. With the app, those who need assistance to go around establishments can see where PWD facilities are located, and a map to help them navigate the area. The app will also have text-to-speech support for visually-impaired individuals.
"We want users to be able to take a picture of certain PWD facilities, and then the app will show it to other users so that they can be informed of the status of these facilities," said Kimberly Cabral.
The team also wants to tie up with local government units by sharing the crowdsourced database with them.
In the Philippines, the topic of mental health remains largely an unaddressed issue. But with many Filipinos suffering from depression and other mental health problems, there is a pressing need to create interventions for this problem.
The Circuit Studio – a team composed of a Christian pastor, a nurse, and an IT expert – aims to use technology to help depressed Filipinos and connect them to a community of individuals ready and willing to help them overcome their difficulties. Through the Pag-ibig Heartline app, users can match with trained volunteer counselors who can discuss a host of problems related to concerns on love, family, friends, and hope.
"Our mission is simple: we want to help depressed individuals...We focus on how we can share our expertise and connections with the community," said Elmer Lacuesta.
Team BADHI focuses on the problem of children in conflict with the law. Their proposal bridges technology and the skills and expertise of social workers to help Filipino youth, especially those at risk of being juvenile delinquents.
Team BADHI wants to see young Filipinos being productive, engaged, and responsible members of society, instead of ending up in jail with their whole lives ahead of them. Their project features software that will consolidate national data on children in conflict with the law, collated by social welfare units in the Philippines, and to use these information to design interventions aiming to lower the number of juvenile delinquents.
The project aims to identify the vulnerability of children early on, assess their environment, and from this generate specific recommendations to engage the child regarding education or employment.
Do you know what to do when your rights are violated, or when you face a civil case?
Filipinos are often at a loss on what to do when it comes to legal issues, but Team LawKo wants to help change that. Through a Facebook chatbot, the team wants to enlighten the public and bridge that knowledge gap between a complicated legal system and the Filipino public.
Instead of complex terms and legalese, the chatbot will present topics on civil procedure, criminal procedure, and other pertinent law topics in a way that's more understandable to the average Filipino user. The chatbot can direct users to relevant offices and courts, answer questions on law procedures, and make this information much more accessible and comprehensible.
"Legal processes shouldn't be this hard to understand. Through these dark times, LawKo aims to shed light for the ordinary citizen," said Alexandra Austria. – Rappler.com