Open Source: Saving the World

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 from 10:00 – 10:45am in B202/03


Most of us get involved with open source as a way to solve the problems we face on a day-to-day basis. But technology in general, and open source software in particular, also provides the key to solving the more catastrophic problems that people face around the world today.


Open source software is being used around the world to keep people safe and help ensure self-determination when the existing democratic processes break down. It’s providing innovative, scalable, and locally appropriate solutions to the issues of literacy and information dissemination. And it’s solving the practical problems of getting help to the right places, and letting people know where to avoid as a disaster unfolds, and where to go for most impact when cleaning up.

Of course, while open source projects are saving the world, working to make every scrap of available information useful, it’s social media and ordinary people that are producing the reports, providing the data. But how do you extract signal from the amazing noise generator that is the internet? You guessed it – open source software comes to the rescue again, along with a good dose of volunteer time!

This talk will draw on Noirin’s experience with working on crisis management in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, as well as her keen interest in humanitarian work, to look at some of the projects currently saving the world, and how ordinary people can repurpose the technology they use every day to make all of this possible.

Speaking experience


  • Noirin

    Noirin Plunkett

    The Apache Software Foundation


    Noirin Plunkett is a jack of all trades, and a master of several. A technical writer by day, her open source work epitomizes the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.

    Noirin got her open source start at Apache, helping out with the httpd documentation project. Within a year, she had been recruited to the conference planning team, which she now leads. She was involved in setting up the Community Development project at Apache, has previously acted as Org Admin for the Google Summer of Code (with more than 40 students!), and continues to contribute to projects as diverse as Infrastructure and Incubator. She sits on the boards of both the Apache Software Foundation and the Open Cloud Initiative.

    At home in Ireland, Noirin was a volunteer with the St John Ambulance – since moving to Switzerland, she’s had to find new ways to help save the world. Happily, open source has opened more than just technical doors, and when Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake earlier this year, Noirin’s knowledge of OS disaster management software meant she could quickly step up to co-ordinate the night shift of volunteers working on the Christchurch Recovery Map at .

    When she’s not online, Noirin’s natural habitat is the dance floor, although she’s also a keen harpist & singer, and an excellent sous chef!