October 2016

Calling all designers, developers, mappers, and tech teachers! Join the Wapichan community, Digital Democracy, and our partners on the trip of a lifetime. Journey to Rupununi, Guyana, one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. Collaborate with indigenous leaders to design and build tools to help them protect their territory and defend against environmental contamination. Help us plan, design and build tools that will be used by indigenous monitors around the globe to document environmental and human rights abuses.

What’s at stake? Across Latin America and in rainforests around the globe, indigenous people face multiple threats, including water contamination, deforestation, and illegal land seizures. When a community stands up to defend their lands, but can’t describe or prove exactly what is or isn’t theirs, they have a difficult if not impossible time navigating the political and legal channels that are supposed to serve them. Dd supports many local communities that are documenting and responding to oil contamination and environmental threats across the Amazon.



What? A one-week hackathon to learn more about the challenges facing indigenous communities in the Amazon, design and build open source tools to meet these needs, and plan to share these experiences and help others do the same. We also ask that each participant share their experiences at at least one additional event that Digital Democracy organizes near the participant’s home city.

When? One week in October 2016, TBD

Where? In and around the Wapichan village of Sholinab, in the South Rupununi savannah. Sholinab is about a 90 minute flight and two hour drive from Guyana’s capital, Georgetown.

Who? Environmental monitors from the local indigenous communities, Digital Democracy staff, and designers, developers, and technically-minded volunteers from around the world sharing their time and expertise (like you!)


  • Because the best tools are built when talented technologists work directly with theirs users and design the tools they need. 
  • Because it will be the most fun you can have while doing good for people and the planet, and Dd’s last two Hackathons - in Haiti and Peru - were a blast. 
  • Because indigenous communities working at the frontlines to protect the Amazon rainforest deserve the best technical support. 
  • Because when indigenous communities assert their land rights, they assert their human rights. 
  • Because community-run forests are better protected, richer in biodiversity, and contain more carbon than other forests, even those managed by governments as national parks. 

How much does it cost? The program cost is $1000 plus airfare per participant. Roundtrip flights to Georgetown are $500-600 nonstop from New York, $900-1200 from San Francisco, $1200-1400 from London. Ask your employer if you can count the trip as volunteer time or if they’ll help support your travel. A small number of scholarships are available for participants that bring underrepresented perspectives.

If you have experience with any of the following, we’d like to hear from you.

  • User interaction design. The Wapichan are smart and fast learners, but many have never used a phone, tablet, or laptop before, and tech support can be hard to find. We need people that are good listeners, empathetic designers, and excited to question traditional design assumptions.
  • Storing and syncing data offline. The Wapichan must travel for hours or days to access the Internet, so monitors have to be able to store and share observations, photos, and more without cellular or WiFi networks. We’ve been using Bluetooth, but are interested in shortwave radio, mesh networks, and other ideas, too.
  • Mapping, GIS and OpenStreetMap. Many of these tools involve recording observations at a location, and then viewing those observations on a map. We want to improve the capabilities of these tools, make them as simple and easier to use as possible, and then share this work with the open source mapping community.
  • Image processing. Photographic documentation is central to monitoring work, and a central part of data storage and transmission. Any increase in processing speed or reduction in file size can save valuable time and resources.
  • Android phone and tablet development. Androids are small, relatively cheap, and easy to take into the field. They’re also handheld GPS, video and photo cameras, audio recorders, forms, and storage drives. How else can we use them to aid in observations and monitoring?
  • Teaching forward and inspiring others. This is only one of several collaborative code creation workshops we have in the works, and we need people who can share their experience at these future events. The next time Digital Democracy comes to your town, can you lead a group of volunteers to implement a tool we designed in Guyana?

Our indigenous partners throughout the Amazon also work with: drone photography and routing, and audio recording and storage. 

Does this sound like you? Apply now.


Want to learn even more about using technology to advance human rights and protect the rainforest? Apply to be a Hack the Rainforest Fellow!

Digital Democracy is organizing a series of related hackathons and code sprints around the United States before and after this event in Guyana. We’re looking for up to two outstanding fellows who can help. In exchange, we’ll arrange for you to attend some of these events, cover the full cost of your trip to Guyana, and offer a small stipend.

Our ideal fellows will:

  • Be able to listen and communicate effectively with both technical and smart but non-technical people.

  • Be able to attend, support, and participate in weekend hackathons and code sprints in the United States. The exact form of participation depends on skills, interests, and experience, but we’re looking for people that can lead discussions, recruit participants, coordinate with vendors and more. Tell us what special skills you’re excited to share.

  • Be able to play a supporting role at the Guyana Hackathon. This could include making reservations, taking notes, transporting materials, and more. Really, we just need fellows that are flexible and game.

  • Have some experience attending or organizing hackathons, code sprints, or other large-ish collaborative events.

  • Want to learn about indigenous land rights and mapping.

  • At least one fellow will live in the United States.

Interested? Apply for the Guyana Hackathon and check the box labeled "Apply for a Fellowship."