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Miami's first Hackathon for Cuba kicks off [The Miami Herald :: ]
[February 01, 2014]

Miami's first Hackathon for Cuba kicks off [The Miami Herald :: ]

(Miami Herald (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 01--Inspired by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez's call to action, about 40 computer programmers gathered Saturday morning for South Florida's first Hackathon for Cuba taking place at The LAB Miami in Wynwood.

The challenge: Problems with connectivity, censorship, extremely costly service and the lowest cellphone and Internet penetration rates in the Western Hemisphere regularly limit information access in Cuba. Given those conditions, devise tech solutions for Cubans to disseminate information. "This is not your typical hackathon," said Raul Moas, executive director of the nonprofit Roots of Hope. Roots of Hope, which is producing the hackathon, is a network of college students and young professionals who aim to empower Cuban youth through technology and entrepreneurial support.

On Friday night, the free hackathon kicked off with a opening party attended by more than 100. It included a few remarks from Sanchez, via video because she had to leave unexpectedly Friday morning. Sanchez said Cubans desperately need innovative apps to disseminate information. She also said she hopes to soon see the next hackathon not in Miami -- but in Cuba.

On Saturday morning, powered by coffee and carbs, the diehard techies broke into teams and got down to work. Many of the ideas were centered on creating apps that use email to disseminate the information, which obviously seems quite primitive for this group. "You have to challenge yourself to think outside the box," said Moas. "We're taking a step back in time to move forward." Saturday night, the teams will present their ideas to judges and win prizes.

Roots of Hope also wants to hold Hackathon for Cuba events in San Francisco and New York later in the year.

This story will be updated. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg ___ (c)2014 The Miami Herald Visit The Miami Herald at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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