Hacking solutions to the world’s resource problem

This weekend in New York City, dozens of developers gathered together for the second Cleanweb Hackathon, where programmers spent the entire weekend building mobile and web apps around new ways to manage energy, water, food and fuel. As Sunil Paul, the founder of the event and a partner with Spring Ventures, put it in a short talk on Sunday afternoon, the idea behind the project is that “Information technology is the most powerful lever we have to address resource constraints.”
Over the weekend, the Cleanweb hackers created applications like NYC BLDGS, a web data base of the energy consumption of buildings in New York that pits the best and worst buildings against each other in friendly competition. Econofy, a web site created over the weekend that enables consumers to compare the energy consumption of appliances, won both the audience choice award and the judges’ award for best overall hack.

The first Cleanweb Hackathon was held in San Francisco in September of last year, and the New York event this weekend was a slightly more high-profile affair. Judges of the hacks included investor Fred Wilson and Rachel Sterne, New York City’s chief digital officer. United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra made an appearance as a special guest.
The event is the latest sign the ecosystem around clean technology is changing. As investors look back at the mistakes that have been made and money lost in capital-intensive investments like next-gen solar, biofuels and electric cars, some investors are taking a different route and looking to make cleantech investing look a lot more like web and mobile investing — literally. Paul’s firm Spring Ventures invests in Cleanweb companies like Solar Mosaic.
The Cleanweb is an attractive way to attack the problem of climate change and resource management for an age of 9 billion people. Information technologies are available now — compared to the science experiments in biofuels and parts of clean power — and thanks to Moore’s Law they are cheap, and will get increasingly cheaper. Now it’s time to tap into the innovation of the developer community to try to create new ways to leverage IT to solve the world’s problems.
Check out the video of the event below and Paul’s explanation of the Cleanweb at our Green:Net 2011 event:
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