Computer hackers are traveling to the Vatican at the request of Pope Francis, who wants them to participate in a computer programming marathon to help provide better resources for migrants and the poor.
The first “Vatican Hackathon” (or VHacks) will take place over 36 hours between March 8-11 and focus on solving problems related to solidarity in a digital world, communication in interfaith dialogue and mobilization of resources for migrants.
“A total of 120 students from universities all around the world and with all faith-backgrounds will come together for a weekend of innovation and project creation,” according to the VHacks website.
The event is organized by OPTIC, a global think-tank dedicated to ethical issues of disruptive technologies, the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, and a group of Harvard and MIT students.
The organizers vowed that the programmers, graphic designers and project managers attending the event will use their talents for good, not to breach firewalls or spread malicious software.
“In the public’s mind, hacking is something done by a group of people trying to break into computers, usually for nefarious purposes. They could be criminals or political operatives or people working for an adversarial company or country that wants to cause some mischief. Or they could be spies,” said Kevin McKee, faculty advisor for the Dos Pueblos High School hacking team in Santa Barbara, California. “But that’s only one small facet of what hacking is. Another, much wider facet is that it’s a system where people are prompted and encouraged to create new and exciting solutions to problems. Frequently, young people do this in an organized fashion called hackathons.”
The event is sponsored by major tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, TIM, and pro-bono institutions, such as The Foundation for the Evangelization through the Media (FEM).