The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum Hackathon:

Internet Shutdowns

Apply by April 1, 2022

Internet shutdowns are a global threat to democracy.

The Challenge: design a solution that allows users to communicate digitally without internet access.

 

The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) Hackathon: Internet Shutdowns is a competition with the objective of developing accessible solutions that would allow citizens, activists, civil society members, and all other stakeholders to maintain digital communication during Internet shutdowns. 

Throughout the ideation and design processes, competitors will be advised by Hackathon judges, activists, and technologists, who will share certain pain points about authoritarian regimes’ tactics of censorship and repression, advise on the technological credibility of projects, and ensure that the teams create impactful solutions.

Competitors participating in the 2022 OFF Hackathon will be invited to pitch their projects virtually for the chance to win a 50,000 NOK cash prize, an exclusive networking opportunity, and All-Access tickets to the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum May 23-25 in Oslo, Norway. All participants will receive student daypasses, which provide access to daytime programming.

Hackathon competitors must be enrolled in an accredited Norwegian university or college. Interested applicants can apply to register before Friday, April 1 

Please refer to our FAQ or email us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Image: Ales Nesetril, Unsplash

Internet shutdowns are a global threat to democracy.

The Challenge: design a solution that allows users to communicate digitally without internet access.

 

The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) Hackathon: Internet Shutdowns is a competition with the objective of developing accessible solutions that would allow citizens, activists, civil society members, and all other stakeholders to maintain digital communication during Internet shutdowns. 

Throughout the ideation and design processes, competitors will be advised by Hackathon judges, activists, and technologists, who will share certain pain points about authoritarian regimes’ tactics of censorship and repression, advise on the technological credibility of projects, and ensure that the teams create impactful solutions.

Competitors participating in the 2022 OFF Hackathon will be invited to pitch their projects virtually for the chance to win a 50,000 NOK cash prize, an exclusive networking opportunity, and All-Access tickets to the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum May 23-25 in Oslo, Norway. All participants will receive student daypasses, which provide access to daytime programming.

Hackathon competitors must be enrolled in an accredited Norwegian university or college. Interested applicants can apply to register before Friday, April 1.  

Please refer to our FAQ or email us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Image: Ales Nesetril, Unsplash

February 21
Registration opens

April 1
Registration closes
at midnight CET

April 2
Hackathon teams are announced

April 6, 7 pm CET
Kick-off 

April 20, 7pm CET
Virtual check-in with all judges and participants. A brief Q&A will be followed by individual check-ins between teams and judges.

May 4
Submission deadline
at midnight CET

May 11, 7pm CET
Virtual presentations.
Teams present and pitch their solutions to the judges.

May 25
Winning team will be announced at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum. 

The announcement ceremony is followed by a networking event open to all Hackathon competitors and judges, along with Oslo Freedom Forum mainstage speakers and activists in the OFF community.

From Ethiopia to Sudan to Venezuela, authoritarian regimes around the world are curtailing internet access as a strategy to hide repression, muzzle criticism, prevent peaceful assembly, impede public communications, and stop information about human rights violations from being shared — thus shielding their actions from the outside world, controlling the narrative, and preventing opposition to their rule from spreading out of their reach. 

Internet shutdowns can take on a variety of forms, including rendering the internet inaccessible, or blocking certain platforms. This phenomenon has been occurring at an exponential rate across countries under authoritarian rule, most often amid election cycles, protests, and periods of political instability, and is often accompanied by heightened state repression, military offensives, and violence. For example, in Sudan, targeted internet disruptions, including bandwidth throttling and restrictions on mobile data use and social media have gone hand in hand with political turmoil in the country since the onset of protests in 2018 that led to the toppling of the dictatorship of Omar Al-Bashir. Most recently in October 2021, the internet shutdown came amid reports of troops opening fire on peaceful protesters, killing at least 11 people and injuring hundreds. 

On-the-ground, when access to the internet is limited or shut down, protesters and activists often find themselves cut off from essential coordination tools, such as messaging apps, alert systems, and crowdsourced protest maps. They are prevented from communicating with one another or with the outside world, organizing protest, or accessing vital information. 

There are, however, precedents around the world where government-instigated shutdowns have been circumvented. For instance, during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, protestors used AirDrop to directly spread information about the protests. In Burma, protestors have been using bluetooth powered peer-to-peer tools like Bridgefy to text each other during internet shutdowns. 

An open and inclusive internet, access to information, and freedom of expression are central to fostering democracy. With cases of internet shutdowns around the world rising, the 2022 OFF Hackathon strives to identify alternative means of bypassing government-instigated internet shutdowns, and ensure that internet access is exercised globally.

Apply to attend here.

The solutions (i.e. apps, softwares, hardwares) need to address the following key challenges: 

• The blocking of key social media platforms and/or or access to online content or services. 

• Significant digital surveillance laws and tools that empower government agencies to criminalize and punish online dissent may be in place.

Submission Format
Submissions must include a “proof of concept” statement, explaining how the submitted specifications have been demonstrated to be technically viable. Proposals must be precise and functionally complete. Any relevant assumptions and context necessary to implement the specification must be provided.

All submission outlines must include:
• Title of project
• A complete list of Hackathon members making the submission, with contact information for each member
• Overview or guide to the material in the submission
• Statement of proof of concept

Team
Competing teams must comprise of 2-5 people

Rubric
Accessibility · Effectiveness · Originality of Work · User Experience · Design · Technical Feasibility · Cost Effectiveness · Replicability · Reliability

Nothing2Hide

Nothing2Hide (N2H) is an association that aims to provide journalists, lawyers, human rights activists and “ordinary” citizens with the means to protect their data and communications by providing technical solutions and training.

 

Glacier Kwong

Glacier Kwong is a political and digital rights activist from Hong Kong. Previously, she was the founder and spokesperson of Keyboard Frontline, an organization dedicated to monitoring censorship and digital rights, and a columnist at Apple Daily. Glacier first got involved in activism in 2012 due to the Copyright Amendment Bill in Hong Kong. Now pursuing her Ph.D in Law at the University of Hamburg, she is currently one of the leading voices of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement living in exile.

Farida Nabourema

Farida Nabourema is a Togolese writer and blogger. In 2011, Nabourema co-founded the Faure Must Go movement, which has since become a hallmark of the Togolese struggle against Faure Gnassingbé’s oppressive rule. Today, she serves as the executive director of the Togolese Civil League, a group that mobilizes pro-democracy activists.

 

Alp Toker

Alp Toker is founder and director of NetBlocks, the global watchdog organisation that tracks digital rights, cybersecurity and the governance of the internet. At NetBlocks, he leads a team tracking internet freedom around the world in real-time.

How do I apply? 

All participants must register to compete in the Hackathon via Eventbrite by April 1, 2022. Our team will review your application and notify you of your selection as a competitor in the Hackathon via email. 

What are the eligibility criteria to apply to compete in the Hackathon?

Hackathon competitors must be enrolled in an accredited Norwegian university or college. We encourage students from all backgrounds to register.

What is the winning prize of the Hackathon? 

Winners will receive All-Access tickets to the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, where they will be presented with their awards, including a cash prize of 50,000 NOK, and offered an exclusive networking opportunity with speakers at the 2022 OFF, which will be held on May 23-25 in Oslo, Norway. 

Can I apply individually, and not as part of a team?

Yes, however all applicants must compete within a team. We will strive to match individual sign-ups with a team.

About the Human Rights Foundation and the Oslo Freedom Forum

HRF connects world-class technologists with activists who live under dictatorships to provide them with the resources they need to protect their communications and privacy, fight state surveillance, and use technology to advance free expression and press freedom.

As a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that protects and promotes human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies, HRF unites people in the common cause of defending and promoting liberal democracy. Its mission is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted around the world.

The Oslo Freedom Forum is a transformative conference bringing together the world’s most engaging human rights advocates, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom and unleash human potential across the globe.

It seeks to:

• Raise human rights to the top of the world agenda
• Highlight the work of activists and innovators
• Expose authoritarian regimes
• Inspire action through the exchange of ideas
• Build, grow, and equip a vibrant international community
• Establish a human rights network of journalists
• Connect participants with allies and supporters