Community Resiliency

Here is an excellent Q&A with Akiba from Tokyo Hackerspace about how hackers in Tokyo are coming together to help people suffering from the massive earthquake in Japan on March 11th: Hackerspace Happenings: MAKE Interviews Tokyo’s Akiba. Especially heartening is that hackerspaces from around the world are contributing as well. Here are some comments from Akiba about community:

We had a discussion yesterday about hackerspaces and community resilience. Hackerspaces foster a maker culture where you’re encouraged to take apart, modify, and build things …

One of the things that really struck me was how fast the other hackerspaces responded to our call for help and support. Within one day, we had offers coming out of hackerspaces in Oklahoma, Arizona, Detroit, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Germany, Singapore, and many other places …

So hackerspaces not only contribute to community resiliency by having the capability to make and modify things as needed. There is also a network of support from other hackerspaces that can respond almost immediately to a cry for help …

In Tokyo Hackerspace, we’re putting together a plan to have designs specifically for disaster situations and that are ready to go immediately. They’ll all be OSHW/OSS and we’d like to start an effort to work with first responders like search and rescue organizations to train them on how to use the technology. That way, first responders can set up mobile charging stations, set up wide area portable intranets, and have a variety of tools at their disposal based on the situation …

New Context Conference 2010

The points Akiba makes about community are most important. To me the topic represents a clear way of thinking about the world and our place in it.

In modern societies too many people are too used to core problems being solved by governments or non-profit organisations. But those resources are never enough when things really break down under the stress of a major disaster. Sure, hundreds of millions of dollars are being donated in a global effort to help people affected by this earthquake, but we are well into our 3rd week now and far too many people are still suffering. That is inevitable given the scope of this particular disaster, but it should also be a reminder that we are all vulnerable.

The real lesson in every disaster is that people — all people everywhere — need to be as prepared as possible to care for themselves, their families, and their local communities in those critical weeks immediately following the initial hit. That helps reduce the burden on the first responders so they can better attend to those who are injured and can’t care of themselves in the short term. People who build things, people who participate in communities, and people work in fields that support the health and well being of others seem to understand this quite naturally. Hackers included. Obviously.

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