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#Peacehack winners in London, Beirut, Barcelona and DC hack for peace

Peace-building charity International Alert welcomed more than 200 participants to four hackathons across the world to answer the rather tough question: can an app stop a bullet?

Technologists, designers and others interested in this issue worked simultaneously in Barcelona, Beirut, London and Washington DC this weekend to come up with solutions to some of the biggest global problems.

In London, the focus was on ‘violent extremism’ and the two winning teams both worked on ideas that help people become more involved with their communities, one a Tinder-style app to help connect with your neighbours, the other an online platform for people to find community events.

In true peace-building fashion, the teams are combining their ideas to take the platform forward.

The London judges included Gadgette editor Holly Brockwell and Andrew Fryer from Microsoft UK.

Mesh network resilient to 3G outage

Hackers in Lebanon’s capital Beirut were focused on the Syrian refugee crisis that has seen more than 1m absorbed by a country of fewer than 4.5m people.

Two teams won here too. The first created a wiki for refugees where important information can be shared, powered by a decentralised mesh network resilient to 3G network outage.

The second worked on creating a platform to facilitate increased transparency between NGOs and donors.

Geo-locate loved ones

In Barcelona, hackers also concentrated on the refugee crisis, with the winners developing a mobile and web app that enables refugees to privately and securely geo-locate their contacts.

Here, two 15-year-old schoolgirls came along to test out their new coding skills on the project.

In Washington DC, the winners developed an early warning system that uses big data to notify local organisations when public sentiment changes towards a certain group, again, as in London, to help with community cohesion.

All of the projects have been submitted to Github so that people can continue to work on, add to or re-use the code created.

On the background to the #peacehack event, which is in its second year, head of technology at International Alert Dan Marsh told Tech City News: “Conflicts are always different so we always have to tackle things in a different way to bring about sustained peace.

“That’s why we’re always on the lookout for creative ways to make a difference. The tech sector builds at pace and at scale, which doesn’t really happen in NGOs at present.

“We were overwhelmed by the commitment of the participants, as well as their creativity and the innovative ideas they developed. We will continue to work with them to ensure these projects come to fruition and can make a difference in countries affected by violence around the world.”

In Spain, International Alert worked with Impact Hub and Build Up to create the event, while in Lebanon, they partnered with Chayn and the UK Leb Hub. Google Campus was the London host for the hack and Creative Associates International was the partner in Washington DC.

Two more hackathons will take place before the end of 2015, one in Medellín in Colombia and the other in Derry in Northern Ireland.

International Alert also works with large corporations around the world to help them understand how they can best operate in different countries that have a fragile political situation.