IBM launches Call for Code for Racial Justice

IBM wants coders to use open-source technologies to address systemic racism.

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IBM is expanding the footprint of the Call for Code program into new areas, announcing on Monday that it was starting a racial justice initiative, which it says will unite a powerful suite of technological tools and an ecosystem of experts for a variety of efforts seeking to address systemic racism. 

Call for Code for Racial Justice will see developers use IBM tools like Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud, IBM Watson, Blockchain ledger, Docker, and Kubernetes on three broad areas of interest: Police & judicial reform and accountability, diverse representation, and policy & legislation reform.

Evaristus Mainsah, IBM's general manager of Hybrid Cloud & Edge Ecosystem, said in an interview that the company was inspired to start the initiative after the recent global protests over racism

"The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others, remind us that the fight against systemic racism is more urgent than ever. We are launching Call for Code for Racial Justice to bring together technology and a powerful ecosystem to combat one of the greatest challenges of our time: Racial injustice," Mainsah explained. 

"As global citizens, we must act now and become part of a tangible change that we want to see today, tomorrow, and for future generations."

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Last week, IBM announced the winners of this year's larger Call for Code competition, crowning an innovative farming assistance app as the best while spotlighting other concepts that provided thoughtful solutions to pressing issues like the coronavirus pandemic. 

The competition has existed for three years and has helped birth a variety of useful tools currently in use that address problems like climate change and natural disasters. Now moving into its fourth year, the program has attracted a huge ecosystem of 400,000 developers in 179 nations. 

"We're counting on the diversity of the global open source community to help build real solutions to serious issues. From its inception, Call for Code was created to take on society's most pressing issues and we recognize that it takes an ecosystem to scale change," Mainsah added. 

"Following three years of successful global programs addressing natural disasters, climate change, and COVID-19, we are now launching Call for Code for Racial Justice, and will encourage the adoption, incubation, and evolution of open source projects to combat systemic racism."

Mainsah said the new Racial Justice initiative started named Call for Code Emb(race)Challenge, which was started by Black employees of IBM and others who wanted to use technology to tackle the persistent problem of systemic racism. 

Five different open-source solutions have been built in this program and they are now being opened up to the rest of the world. Mainsah said IBM is hoping developers will help by "testing, extending, and implementing these open source solutions, and contributing their own diverse perspectives and expertise to make them even stronger."

The five solutions include Five/Fifths Voter, a web app that provides localized voting information; Legit-info, a platform with information about local laws and policies; Incident Accuracy Reporting System, a system that allows witnesses and victims to provide tamper-proof statements and evidence that can be checked against official police reports; Open Sentencing, a data platform for public defenders; and Truth, an app that helps explain local regulations and legislation.    

Unlike the other Call for Code programs, the Racial Justice initiative is not a competition and does not have an end date, Mainsah explained, adding that IBM is also working on the solutions with partners like Black Girls Code, Collab Capital, and Dream Corps.

"The initiative is not a challenge, but an ongoing opportunity for developers to contribute within the open-source community. Call for Code's growth and success is a product of the unique ecosystem that IBM and Call for Code creator David Clark Cause have convened to unite the technology development community with humanitarian organizations to help ensure that solutions are robust, efficient, innovative, and easy-to-use," Mainsah said.

"We're counting on the diversity of the global open-source community to lean in and help build real solutions to serious issues. If you're a developer, we encourage you to build upon the solution starters and spread the word. If you're an organization, we invite you to join our growing partner ecosystem.

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