19 February 2014

“We had hundreds of people volunteer their time to produce genuinely innovative apps that are testament to the creativity, imagination and generosity of our local tech community” – Joanna Shields, Tech City UK.

Whilst I’m lucky to have been away with the family for the past couple of weeks, I’ve still been keeping an eye on the news back home. They say a picture speaks a thousand words and I think this is true of the images of the floods, which tell a fairly distressing story. Yet amongst the tales of dark clouds there are many rays of light, which can sometimes go unnoticed in amongst the media’s coverage of all the bad news.

As well as the RSPCA’s sterling response to the floods, rescuing hundreds of animals so far, there have also been some very proactive reactions from the tech community. Whilst they might not be the first “service” to spring to mind when you think about flooding, they’ve been doing what techies arguably do the best: making a difference out of the spotlight and behind the scenes.

Last weekend, a group of top developers coded a range of apps to bolster the support system for flood victims at an event run by Tech City UK. I think what’s interesting here is that the government approached the tech community to do something useful with their data on the floods, which just goes to show how important coding is as a skill and how data can be used for good when placed in the right hands. Some of the apps created were chosen by the Cabinet Office, including a system designed to centralise requests for help and another that allows users to set up alerts for problems such as flooded roads or power cuts.

Ultimately, I think any resource that provides information or assistance to people affected by the floods – and any other crisis for that matter – helps to lighten the load and puts more power into the hands of those that need it. It also goes to show that thinking outside the box and approaching problems from different angles can produce really positive results.

How else do you think we could use technology to help people in real life situations? Do you use apps to help you solve problems?


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