Social change: Looking at web-based solutions to extremism

Apps aiming to build tolerance presented at the Peace Hackathon

Amel Ghani July 10, 2015
Rana Mashhood. PHOTO: INP


Though the government is taking various measures to counter extremism, the civil society and the youth too have an important role to play towards building a peaceful Pakistan, Youth and Education Minister Rana Mashood Ahmed said at the Peace Hackathon on Thursday.

The event was held as part of the Pur Amn Pakistan campaign by the Chanan Development Association (CDA), Umeed-i-Jawan and Mindgem Studios.

Participants of the hackathon presented phone applications and websites that could be used to promote peace and to counter violent extremism among the youth.

The applications were developed over a three-month incubation period called the Café Entrepreneurship. The idea was to get 20 graduates from various fields to come together and develop web-based solutions to counter violent extremism among the youth in the country. The participants then had to present their apps and web-based solutions at the Peace Hackathon.

Ahmed appreciated their work and distributed certificates among them. He also discussed various measures the government was taking to counter violent extremism in the Punjab.

CDA Executive Director Muhammad Shahzad Khan urged the youth to play a more active role in the development of the country. “The youth of Pakistan have the potential and the aspirations to do that.”

Khan said the Café Entrepreneurship had been established to help the youth become agents of social change. He said the CDA had received more than 200 applications for the pilot batch. He said this was reflective of the interest young people had in working for a peaceful Pakistan.

The CDA presented an app they had developed for Android and IOS platforms. The Hasp (Stand against Hate Speech) app allows citizens to report hate speech by uploading incidents of hate speech online and maintain anonymity.

The participants presented six apps linking daily activities to promoting peace and countering violence.

The phone applications were judged by a panel comprising various well-known human rights activists and technical experts including Muhammad Waseem from the Interactive Resource Centre (IRC), Sabiha Shaheen of Bargad, Azmat Abbas, Irfan from Mindgem, Mudassar from the Apps Genii and Muneeb from Creative Frontier.

The audience could also vote for the app they liked the best based on presentations given by the teams.

Brain Builder – an app to help motivate students – won the first prize. The idea behind the app was to encourage the youth to think positively and to achieve the goals they aspired to. This app carried online manuals and sessions for the purpose. Aniq Siddique, Maryam Shaheed Khan and Amir Pervaiz had worked on the app and had also developed a web portal which carried games, to promote team building, and ideas for activities that promoted tolerance.

Another app that received much appreciation was Photosto by Muhammad Waleed and Noman Ahmed. The app allows users to upload pictures of regular people working to create peace.

The developers of Photosto said the idea was to counter hate speech by providing the youth with alternative role models.

Other apps presented included RPC, a role-playing app that presented the outcomes of various scenarios – for example, angry or peaceful responses to an issue.

The app Little Hands aimed to decrease the number of children begging on the streets.

Other apps presented at the Peace Hackathon include the Dastkari app, which allows craftsmen to market products directly, and the Pur Amn Pakistan app which discusses peace and how it is being promoted all over the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.


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