UPDATED 09:00 EDT / FEBRUARY 19 2021

APPS

Linux Foundation backs 7 new open-source projects to promote racial justice

The Linux Foundation said today that it has decided to house seven new open-source software projects aimed at promoting racial justice, in a move that’s designed to encourage more developers to participate in their development.

The seven open-source projects are all entrants in the 2021 Call for Code, n annual contest held by IBM Corp. It invites developers to create and deploy applications based on open-source technology that can tackle some of the most pressing challenges in the world.

The Call for Code for Racial Justice challenge was launched in October, aiming to promote racial justice in three specific areas: Police and Judicial Reform and Accountability, Diverse Representation, and Policy and Legislation Reform.

Racial justice is, of course, a fitting topic for this year’s Call for Code challenge given the racial tensions that surfaced in the U.S. over the past year, triggered by the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests led in part by the Black Lives Matter movement.

The contest is still ongoing and the winner will be announced later this year. But the Linux Foundation said it was so impressed with two of the contest’s entrants that it has decided to unveil them as “solution starters” now.

They include the Fair Change platform, which is software that’s designed to help record, catalog and access evidence of potentially racially charged incidents in order to enable transparency, reeducation and reform as a matter of public interest and safety, the Linux Foundation said. An example of this is recording real-world footage of routine traffic stops and stop-and-search scenarios and making then accessible to authorities and other groups so they can determine if these incidents were handled in a biased manner.

The Fair Change platform has created apps for both iOS and Android, plus an application programming interface that can be used to capture data. The project has also created a website that offers a geospatial map of incidents layered across Google Maps.

The other solution starter is TakeTwo, which is aimed at mitigating bias in digital content, including both overt and subtle bias. TakeTwo focuses on headlines, text within news articles, web pages and blogs, and even code.

The project is aimed at compiling a consistent set of language recommendations that consists of inclusive terms from sources such as the Inclusive Naming Initiative that was co-founded by the Linux Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, IBM, Red Hat Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and VMware Inc.

“Viewed from an etymological perspective, language is a manifestation of our inherent viewpoints about society,” said Priyanka Sharma, general manager of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. “Many phrases and words may be used in harmless contexts but bear a history that does not support our diverse, multi-cultural engineering community today.”

The Linux Foundation will also host five more promising open-source projects that were submitted to the Call for Code for Racial Justice challenge.

They include the Five Fifths Voter web application that is designed to help empower minorities who want to exercise their right to vote by determining optimal voting strategies based on their location and political leanings. The Legit-Info app, meanwhile, helps people to understand legislation that can have impacts on things such as jobs, the environment and public safety. The Linux Foundation will also house the Incident Accuracy Reporting System, which is described as a platform that enables witnesses and victims to corroborate evidence and provide more information from multiple sources against an official police report.

The last two are Open Sentencing, aimed at helping public defenders make a stronger case for their clients by understanding racial bias in data such as demographics, and Truth Loop, an app that helps communities to understand the policies, regulations and legislation that will impact them most.

The Linux Foundation and IBM are calling on developers and ecosystem partners to help further these projects by contributing to testing, extending and implementing them, and adding their own diverse perspectives and expertise.

“Open-source technology has an important role to play in addressing the greatest challenges of our time, and that includes racial justice,” said Mike Dolan, senior vice president and general manager of projects at the Linux Foundation. “We are excited to host and support these projects at the Linux Foundation, and look forward to how they will develop and deploy through contributions from the open-source community.”

Photo: UnratedStudio/Pixabay

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