We Have, We Need is a student-led project at the University of California, San Diego. WHWN is a supply-sharing and communication platform created for humanitarians and NGOs in disaster/crisis zones, currently targeted toward relief efforts in Haiti. Come learn how we cope with issues like frequent developer turnover, limited budgets, fluctuating team size, and varying experience levels.
We Have, We Need is a student-led project out of the Global TIES program at the University of California, San Diego. We Have, We Need is a supply-sharing and communication platform created for humanitarians and NGOs in disaster/crisis zones, currently targeted toward relief efforts in Haiti.
These first-responders and relief workers can use “We Have, We Need” to post things they have and supplies they need, with our service automatically matching these requests with the supplies of other teams in the area. The project aims to eliminate the time-consuming task of manually matching these “haves” and “needs”, which is currently performed by volunteers on a vast variety of forums and portals.
Additionally, the project is looking to provide a platform through which these volunteers can interact with their information using various different communication media; doctors in the fields can use SMS to check their inventory, request more supplies, and communicate safely with other users, while those near reliable internet sources can utilize the web application built at wehave-weneed.org. The entire project has been built with the knowledge that because internet is a scarce commodity in disaster zones, implementation must proceed with a “web last” mentality to ensure that the people who depend on the service can get their information when they need it, where they need it.
Being a university project, not only have we had to deal with the normal obstacles like deployment and maintenance, but we've had to deal with a turnover rate of about ten weeks, as well as students from their first year in computer science all the way to their fifth. Our tech stack and requisite services reflect the need to be flexible enough to bring new developers on in a matter of days rather than weeks, but be robust enough to serve requests throughout the world.
Our tech stack consists of Python + Django, PostgreSQL + PostGIS, Redis, python workers, and ElasticSearch. Our staging and production environments both live on dotCloud, and our local environments mimic production servers using VirtualBox, Vagrant, and Chef.
In the end, we want to share our experiences as undergraduates working with clients in Haiti, New York, and with various faculty members in three different academic departments. We've done a mighty job of bootstrapping not only our application but ourselves as well by acquiring knowledge from many resources not laid out in the syllabi of our core curriculum, and we are sure that learning by doing has been one of the biggest pieces of our education. Undergraduates of all levels, as well as anyone looking to work with undergraduates, can learn a lot from our team building and development process that is entirely unique to the short turnovers exhibited by the educational system.