CourtHack: Tech comes to the courts

The CourtHack hackathon is an initiative by the National Center for State Courts in Utah and HackerNest. The purpose is to address the growing digital divide between information from the legal system (law enforcement, legal representation) and the court system (trials cases, judges, courthouses) that needs to access it.

The recent Netflix documentary Making a Murderer demonstrates how the inability to easily access data and communicate with the court system can contribute to systemic failures. Popular television shows aside, there is continuous talk about the failures of our justice system. Punishment is not deterring future crimes; there are far too many police officers in certain neighborhoods and not enough in others. According to UTNews, non-violent criminals are being incarcerated at alarming rates, producing a 60% chance that they will go back to prison once released. Although there are many reasons why these issues are plaguing our justice system, all experts agree that the current strain on the court system to meet the public needs is a threat to our rights to fair and speedy trials.

CourtHack seeks to use hackathons to create innovative and efficient solutions to flaws in the U.S. justice system. As one of the first ever court-related hackathons, CourtHack hopes to serve as a symbol of how the legal system and technology can be brought together to produce positive results.

Approximately 100 participants will form teams and compete for sizeable cash and non-cash prizes, mentorship opportunities, key meetings with industry decision-makers, and a demo spot at a major court technology conference. The event is completely free, although there is a $20 registration fee that will be refunded when you arrive on the day of the event. The hackathon will take place at:
Matheson Courthouse
450 State Street
Salt Lake City, UT

Legal minds, technologists, entrepreneurs, and concerned citizens are encouraged to compete in this epic, 22-hour hackathon. There will be an expert panel of judges that range from court administrators to judges to CIOs from around the country.

CourtHack Challenges

The team at CourtHack has made a set of challenges meant to inspire teams to build the things that will have an immediate benefit on people’s lives. Teams are not limited by the challenges; they are meant to inspire and shape the understanding of the needs that currently exist.

1. Accountability: Predictive Analytics to Target Court Oversight

Courts are supposed to oversee estate assets, including those that are willed over to family members. There are instances where a guardian may be presumed to be stealing money from the person that they are supposed to protect, but the court may be backed up with other cases. Lack of time and lack of resources makes this process difficult to manage. Therefore, there is an opportunity for technology to better manage these cases, and make abuses of the system more transparent.

2. Public Access to Justice: Apps, Tools, and Processes to improve access to justice and allow the public to resolve disputes efficiently

The court system is terribly behind in web technologies. This means that simple things such as paying a fine, or showing proof of license or insurance for a ticket are not usually possible via the web. Simple mobile applications that would enable citizens access to complete these transactions would dramatically improve the speed and efficiency of the court.

3. Legal Speed: Remote dispatch of emergency protection orders

Speeding up the flow of court information to and from the public is a major need. Circumstances such as domestic violence and abuse would be greatly facilitated if there were an easy way to send information to law enforcement and the court system. Getting restrictive orders can take time do to the need to present information in court. An application that would allow this data to be sent over the web, along with video conferencing with expedite this process.

4. Wild Card: Gaps in the Court System

There are many existing gaps in our legal system that could be aided by technology. Minor issues that are currently being handled in court may be able to be done remotely if there was a web portal and mobile app for access. Even the need to ask questions to the court could be facilitated by web technologies. There is a lot of opportunity to help make the court system more efficient in its ability to serve the public and fulfill its duties.

Article via University of Texas News, 1 June 2015; The New York Times, 12 March 2012

Photo via CourtHack


Chayn and their efforts for world peace

Hera Hussain is the founder of Chayn: an advocacy group that leverages technology to empower women against violence and oppression so they can live much better lives. One of the main themes of this group is to use the power of technology to help people most overlooked by society. Hussain says it is usually women, especially women of color that are affected. One of their projects included a hackathon to create solutions to end sexual violence in high conflict zones. Another was an online toolkit for domestic abuse survivors to build their own legal case.

A particular hackathon held more than a month ago called #PeaceHackBEY helped to resolve the issue of integrating women into the picture of solving societal challenges. In partnership with the global NGO International Alert, Chayn brought together a variety of technologists, activists, thinkers, and engaged citizens aiming to create solutions to some of the major social problems facing Lebanon today.  Before, there were two extremes in civil society: events that focus solely on women and the latter dominated by men. In events leading up to the Hackathon, anti-government protests swept the city over issues like public services and the lack of resources and support for the Syrian refugees that entered Lebanon to escape turmoil.

“Civic tech is a term that emerged because there was demand for citizens to create solutions when the response from government was slow and people wanted to make change on their own,” Hussain says. “This hackathon felt like it was the right thing because it was tackling issues that Lebanese society faces as a whole—access to services, resources, and information—but which tend to affect women most because they’re disenfranchised.”

Chayn is headquartered in London, but Hussain is originally from Pakistan and heads a team of volunteers from all over the world. Hussain hopes the organization acts as facilitators, active in working with stakeholders and finding sustainable solutions to build peace. “We believe in a ‘build with, not for’ approach—that’s all about working with people you’re building solutions for, rather than building it for them without including them as part of the design process,” she says.

Article via Good Magazine, September 22, 2015

Photo: Globe in Purple via Norm Hoekstra [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Teenage hackathon addresses cyberbullying

Fifteen teenagers from across the country convened in New York City to participate in DoSomething.org and Coca-Cola’s co-sponsored Happiness Hackathon, designed to invent creative solutions to cyberbullying. The one-day event took place on October 3rd.

According to DoSomething.org, just under 50 percent of young people have been cyberbullied. Equally alarming is the estimate that 90 percent of teens who witness online bullying do nothing to address it.

Out of several hundred teenagers who submitted proposals to reduce cyberbullying, the fifteen chosen were from diverse backgrounds and generally had personal experiences with bullying.

“We wanted 15 different perspectives, different ideas, different ways of tackling the problem,” said Aria Finger, DoSomething.org’s Chief Operations Officer.

The teens were broken up into groups of three, and each team was provided a mentor to help develop their ideas. Among the proposed solutions, one team thought of an app that let users compliment others; another group designed a program that required teenagers suspended from social media for cyberbullying to take an online anti-bullying seminar before reactivating their accounts.

Finger awarded the teams for different accomplishments, such as “Best Use of Tech” and “Most Unique Idea.”

“We’re absolutely committed to being in touch with the teens and advocating for them and their ideas,” Finger said. “We are committed to this long term.”

Article via Mashable, October 28, 2015

Photo: GameLab Exhibit via Ars Electronica [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


United Nations creates “Sustainable Development Goals”

The United Nations has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals, an action plan to solve the globe’s most important issues by 2030. Nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators are advocating around the world to execute the UN’s #globalgoals. One of these activists is Hera Hussain, a facilitator of workshops for MakeSense, a worldwide consortium of social entrepreneurs, and founder of the advocacy group Chayn. Hera Hussain is one of many activist and technologists considered to be “Local Globalists” as they seek solutions for the UN’s specified global problems.

Chayn’s mission is to use technology to empower women against violence and oppression. In the past, Chayn has organized hackathons to create solutions to end sexual violence in conflict zones and offered online toolkits to domestic abuse survivors so that they may be able to prepare their own legal cases. On September 25, the organization hosted a hackathon in Beirut called #PeaceHackBEY, in which technologists and activists invented solutions to social problems in Lebanon today. The hackathon occurred at a pivotal time, as anti-government protests have consumed Beirut in the past few weeks due to deficiencies in public services and resources to support the million-plus Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon.

“Tech and society are always further ahead than governments and governments are playing catch up, but we’re slowly starting to see this change,” Hussain says. “By using tech to fill gaps in access to information and justice, we can either complement efforts that governments and NGOs are already doing, or point out where they are failing.”

Article via GOOD, 22 September 2015

Photo: Brighton Digital Festival Hackathon Sponsored by iCrossing UK via iCrossing [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

 


Top 8 Hackathon Resources

Want to attend a hackathon that not only needs your talents, but fits your mindset?  Maybe you are actually thinking of hosting your own event, but don’t know when to begin?

If this describes you, check out our Hackathon Resources page.

There you’ll find resources to help manage everything from organizing and planning your hackathon (like Hacker League), to finding Silicon Valley investors(such as Angel Hack) that want to connect with hackers. Resources like Hackathon.io   and HackWeekends help you find  hackathons to attend as well as connecting you to a user community.

Photo: Olathe Human Resources via City of Olathe [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]