IBM has launched two new projects for its Call for Code for Racial Justice initiative and will team with The Linux Foundation to host these and the other projects in the effort.
IBM is using its technical and market weight to join the fight for racial justice by inviting developers to build applications that can help the cause. Call for Code, a longstanding IBM developer contest, is now an ongoing project to turn out top-notch apps that seek to level the playing field when it comes to race and justice.
One of the new projects, TakeTwo, helps to help mitigate bias in digital content, whether it is overt or subtle, with a focus on text across news articles, headlines, web pages, blogs and even code, said Ruth Davis, director of IBM‘s Call for Code.
The goal of Take Two is to provide a consistent set of language recommendations, using directories of inclusive terms compiled by trusted sources such as the Inclusive Naming Initiative, which was co-founded by the Linux Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, IBM, Red Hat, Cisco and VMware, she said.
“It’s not just a random list of terms — there’s a lot of work that has been done to make sure that the directory includes trusted source data,” Davis said. Moreover, the terms are categorized and can be used to train an AI model to enhance its accuracy over time. “The AI component will get smarter over time,” she said.
TakeTwo was built using Python, FastAPI and Docker. The API can be run locally with an Adobe CouchDB back-end database or IBM Cloudant database.
The second new project is called Fair Change, which is a platform to help users record, catalog and access evidence of potentially racially charged incidents. Fair Change consists of a mobile application for iOS and Android built using React Native and an API for capturing data from various sources built using Node.js, Davis said. It also includes a website with a geospatial map view of incidents built using Google Maps and React.
Ruth DavisDirector, IBM‘s Call for Code
“We spoke with victims’ advocates, with [non-government organizations] and legal authorities, and in doing that, it became clear that there was a need for a common platform that could be used in a constructive way,” she said. “So what Fair Change does is enables transparency, re-education and reform for law enforcement, as a matter of public interest and safety.”
A real-world example might be video footage related to a routine traffic stop, or stop and search or other similar scenarios, Davis said.
“So if you think you were victim of a biased incident you can access the map view, which has an intelligent visualization system,” she said. “It would make it easy to see if there were any potential witnesses that were there, the buildings that might have cameras on it to capture the event, anything that would have footage that might help.”
A Challenge for IBM
John Foster, COO at Fearless, a Baltimore-based, Black-owned digital services firm that has its own DevOps shop, said he “absolutely loves” what IBM is doing with its Call for Code for Racial Justice initiative.
“I love the fact that there’s energy, attention and dollars being spent on this,” Foster said. “This is one of the places where federal, state and local governments tend to not spend a lot of dollars. So the fact that private companies are spending their dollars there, I absolutely love it. We all need to be promoting these ideas and to talk about the more ways that we expose the inequities that exist.”
Foster talks from a position of experience. Fearless has a focus on what it refers to as “civic tech” projects that use software to help ease social inequities. The company also has an intensive program called Hutch to invest in and help train and mentor leaders of new civic tech businesses.
However, “The charge that I would have for IBM is that the people who are working on those apps, understand the underlying problems,” Foster said. “It’s not just they’re building the apps, but they’re making changes in terms of people they may not interact with every day. If they’re not, if they’re not doing that work outside of the app, we’re only winning half the battle, in my opinion.”
Another key project is the Incident Accuracy Reporting System, a content management application that focuses on transparency surrounding police incident reporting by allowing witnesses and victims to directly submit evidence such as images and videos. The system helps to create a more reliable record of all accounts of an incident.
The rest of the Call for Code Racial Justice projects include Open Sentencing, which helps public defenders better serve their minority clients by identifying racial bias in data such as demographics that can help make a stronger case.
The Truth Loop app helps users understand the policies, regulations and legislation that will affect them the most and allows them to share their experiences of how these policies have affected them or how proposed policies could affect them using short video testimonials. Finally, Legit-info is a project that helps residents understand the impact of legislation and policies based on their country, state, county, city and district location, Davis said.