Open Access, With a Dash of Altruism

Plenty of computer-science whizzes spend their summers plugging away on code for companies like Google and Microsoft. But about a dozen students at Connecticut institutions put their coding skills to a humanitarian use this summer, and the fruits of their labor are now on display.

The students worked for the Humanitarian-FOSS Project, an enterprise that aims to develop free, open-source software for global-aid and community-building efforts. The project was created by open-source enthusiasts at Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Connecticut College—who were inspired by the success of Sahana, an open-source disaster-management system created in 2004 after tsunamis wracked Asia’s coast.

Students from Trinity, Wesleyan, and Connecticut College participated this summer, along with programmers from the Universities of Connecticut and Hartford. They worked in groups on a broad range of projects: One team designed software that helped a local literacy group manage its labs, while another group developed a data-mining system that can identify disease outbreaks by reading news reports.—Brock Read

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