Closing Remarks at the Readysaster Hackathon for Resilience
12/F, Sa Doce, Smart Tower 1, 6799, Ayala Ave, Makati
May 11, 2014
Everyone’s waiting for the phone, some of you I have met before. So I have to think of something new, which is not a problem because… Well, what hasn’t changed is, the last speaker always has the worst job because you’re all tired to go home, you had 48 hours with too little sleep.
It’s Mother’s Day today, although, officially it’s not. Mother’s Day is in the first week of December in the Philippines. I have to give you that dose of nerdiness just to earn my keep.
And, it’s 36.5 degrees outside, so maybe we’re not that much of in a rush to get out of the air conditioning. But, I wanted to talk about what a contrast your being here today is with what it was like just a few years ago.
I’ll give you two quick stories. The first was, when we were setting up the Official Gazette and that’s at www.gov.ph Shameless plug, please visit us.
When we were trying to putting together the servers and everything, someone else from another government agency said, “You know, I envy you guys because you guys are making the big step on going online 24/7.” And I said, “Why, it’s long overdue.” And he said, “No, but for the rest of the government, it’s not like that.” He was telling a story about how their agency, one of the biggest agencies in the government, when they were computerizing in the 1990s, when they got the final list for the computers, at the bottom of the list was 20 typewriters.
And the guy who was in charge, in fact the head of the department said, “Didn’t someone get the memo? This is about the computerization of the department. Why are there typewriters in this?” And there’s a little guy at the back who raised his hand. And the guy said, “Yes, you, are you the one responsible for putting this stupid typewriters when we’re computerizing the office?” And the guy said, “Yes.” And he goes, “Why?” “Brownout.”
And that’s the reality that we have to deal with sometimes. Even as we are investing both in terms of skills and in the equipment, to join the rest of the world in the 21st century in a 24/7 online world, there’s a lot of people out there who cannot rely on that all the time.
I’ll give you the second story. The second story is much simpler and it was about online security. And we were talking to some people who were the type who would close all the windows and look at everything before they talk to you to make sure that it’s really safe. And we were talking to them about the dangers of, let’s say, our servers being hacked or our networks being compromised, and that sort of thing.
And the guy looked around and says,“No we don’t have that problem.” And I said, “Wow. What’s your secret? Do you have some technology? Do you have really trained people?” And he goes, “No, something better.” And I said, “What is it?” “We don’t have computers.” And then, he goes, “Even our fax machine at night, we unplug it. We are safe.” And that was his story.
Now, there’s another people out there who, truth be told, are still skeptical about what you’re doing and what we’re doing. There are a lot of people out there who will give you two answers when you say with pride, “You know I joined this Hackathon. We came up with an app. It’s gonna help people. It’s gonna solve that big problem when there’s an emergency which is people deserve to know information. They deserve to understand. They deserve a way to reach out and participate wherever you are in the world.”
And they will go, “What about that person without a computer? What about that time when there is no electricity and nothing can be done? What about all the security? What about, what about, what about?”
There’s always a reason, I guess, to be negative. But the fact that you guys gave up your weekend, and it’s not like, while the prizes are nice, and we should all be very thankful to the sponsors, I don’t think you’re here for the Krispy Kreme or the spaghetti or the free diet soda. Maybe the aircon helps.
I think you’re here because there’s a part of you that really wants to make a difference. That while the world is your oyster because you guys have the skillz, with a Z, that everyone is going to be beating down your doorstep to hire you sooner or later. Mahar Lagmay was just standing out there when they came in and he said, “Oh, I’m gonna grab some of these guys because they’re so good.”
I think a lot of you here, were here and are here because of that sort of old-fashioned word, caring. I guess some of you are quite young, not all of you, but for those of us who went through Ondoy and Pepeng, I think it led to that generation vowing, “Never again.” That’s what pushed Mahar Lagmay to do what he’s doing. It’s what got Bon Moya really interested in seeing how information, and the Net, and all of these things could help people.
It’s why big organizations like the State Department or the World Bank are stepping up and ponying up cash. It’s the reason that you guys, with all the people who are twice your age or even ten years older than “Ah, they use…They don’t care. They just want to be at the mall. They just want to watch a movie. They’re just doing some goofy stuff online.” But you guys are here. And that’s something no one can thank you for because it’s not something you do for someone else’s thanks, is it?
So, I guess the main takeawayfor all of us here today is: Is it gonna end here? How many of you are going to take that extra step that when Mahar Lagmay comes up to you and says “Are you willing to give up a few more weekends. Are you willing to have a few more sleepless nights?” Or if Bon Moya goes up to you and says “Can you still help us figure out the way so that people don’t steal the money that we will be paying from your payroll when you start working?”
Are you still going to care? It’s a great and fantastic thing that you guys have given up one weekend in the middle of summer. It will be beyond uber fantastic if you guys can do it for a couple, several, multiple weekends to help those who do and will be helped by what you are doing.
The guy without a computer is as affected as much as all of the people who are plugged in. And I’ll tell you why. It’s the reason why there’s FAiTH, which we developed with the World Bank. It’s the reason why there’s the Official Gazette. Because if you raise the bar in one place, and what do I mean by raising the bar, if you get your friends, yourself, to understand what is going on and why it’s going on, that is the first step to getting it fixed. And if you fix it in one place, word spreads.
And even the guy who has never had a computer will know that “Hey, in that particular place because they kept on trying to figure out where is the money going, where is the flood levels being reported, is it all being gathered in a database so that we can all figure out where the next time will come.” That raising of the bar will have such a spillover effect that it will not matter if you have a computer or not.
They are saying that the Internet, for example, has been as disruptive to the world as a much older invention, the invention of the printing press. You know about that. You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it in all sorts of documentaries and think pieces. The idea was once you invented the printing press, you could share ideas so quickly that no idea could ever be killed, especially a good idea.
The fact that you are now working online, where even papers are becoming obsolete, means no information, no data can ever be held fully secret, most of all, from people who deserve to know.
So on that rather serious note, I would like to say thank you even though you are not here for my thanks, or Bon Moya’s thanks, or the World Bank’s thanks. I would like to say thank you because you guys are proving all your elders wrong. You are proving that this country does have a future. And I think you are proving to each other that while some of you are going to be very successful indeed and very wealthy indeed, and you deserve it, you are also going to be good citizens. And that is something that’s beyond any price.
Thank you very much.
Readysaster Hackathon for Resilience