Social Initiatives in Tech to combat COVID-19
9 min read
Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the lives of people around the world, and its influence is growing steadily. In many countries, authorities impose unprecedented quarantine measures and restrictions: educational institutions are closed, domestic and international flights canceled, urban transportation off, no public events, and people advised to stay home.
The quarantine-related measures reflect on the functioning of many enterprises and businesses around the world. Automobile giants such as BMW and Honda are forced to completely stop production in Europe and the United States. Retailers need to reshape their workflows and logistics to navigate through the restrictions.
Photo credit: Global Hack
Many governments are already allocating huge amounts of money to support the economy. For example, the United States allocates about $4 trillion to stabilize and support critical industries, purchase medical equipment, etc.
Initiatives as a Powerful Front to Fight the Virus
Ministries in many countries launch nationwide IT project contests with prize pools for winners, large IT companies actively allocate their own funds to fight the pandemic and develop specialized software, startups blow with ideas in every possible field. For the latter, this is a chance and an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their potential and find sensitive points where they can offer unique solutions.
Here is the list of some initiatives that take place today around the world:
Hackathons are conducted here and there around the globe, gathering tens of thousands of participants. The organizers, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization and local authorities, identify critical issues and offer an opportunity for developers to build software solutions that make a social impact, intending to tackle some of the challenges related to the current coronavirus pandemic. Usually, participants can choose a solution for one of the following topics: health, business, society, education, entertainment.
UNESCO has launched the CodeTheCurve hackathon to support innovators in all areas, data scientists, and designers across the world to develop digital solutions that could help to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Participating teams will work on one of three main themes: ensuring continued learning, data management and information, and the present and the future: societal and health issues.
Sweden Government Agency for Digitalization has initiated the Hack the Crisis hackathon, which targets social challenges created by the ongoing pandemic. Its mission is to develop and implement ideas that will help those fighting and suffering from the virus. The government claims this hackathon as a context for all parts of society to contribute – public sector, private sector, academia, non-profit organizations and citizens, who want to join in the fight.
Another hackathon is conducted by the UK government for startups and other businesses that develop tools to improve resilience for critical industries. But the whole goal is to engage more ideas and solutions in other areas, such as community support, hospitality, food manufacture and delivery, education, entertainment, etc.
Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation announced a national HackCorona IT contest of ideas and projects to help people and businesses overcome the ongoing crisis. Developers, startups, marketers, researchers, and activists are invited to contribute to this global struggle. Both new products and improved existing solutions that can be useful for people and businesses to survive quarantine can participate. The main requirements for the ideas are their innovativeness, social impact, and viability.
Also, a 24-hour Zoom HackCorona hackathon was organized recently by Israeli and American developers to find collaborative solutions. As a result of discussions, the projects were divided into several categories: Working Remotely (an application that records an online meeting, and after its completion creates a short compressed video version of the meeting; as well as a platform for online lessons, training, and workshops); Vulnerable Communities (a bot which is aimed to help vulnerable groups of the population to get help from volunteers for the delivery of food and medicine); Distance Learning (VR interface for remote learning of children with various funny backgrounds); Open Truck (an application that allows people of a certain profession (for example, firefighters or doctors) to reserve a place in urban transport in order to be guaranteed to get to the place of work).
One more global event is The Global Hack, an online hackathon aimed to share and rapidly develop ideas for urgently needed solutions to combat the spreading pandemic, as well as to build resilience post-pandemic. The Global Hack unites the Hack the Crisis movement and the 40+ hackathons put up in the frames of this movement. The prize pool for the best ideas is more than 195k euros. Mentors expect ideas in a variety of areas. The most likely are arts, education, governance, mental health, economy, and so forth.
Social Media Initiatives
The media environment is now filled with various rumors and speculations regarding the origin and spread of the virus. In mid-March, major media platforms (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, YouTube, Twitter) announced that they are joining forces to combat “fraud and misinformation about the virus.” The main goals were to provide information support to people and organizations, to prevent the dissemination of false information, and curb dishonest sellers profiting from the sale of essential items at inflated prices.
In line with this initiative, Facebook has launched the Coronavirus Information Center and Messenger Coronavirus Hub platforms. The first platform is designed to help people find information in addition to existing measures to prevent fraud, malvertising, and other sources of misinformation. The second one contains useful resources that help to identify sources of misinformation and prevent their spread. At the hub, you can also find tips on how to use Internet resources safely. Facebook also bans ads that offer users medical products at inflated prices or “miracle cures.”
YouTube claims that only verified and reliable videos about the coronavirus will be displayed on the home page. For users from the most affected countries, the platform displays a panel with information from the World Health Organization or local organizations. The platform also provides government and non-governmental organizations with the opportunity to post important and promotional information for free.
Instagram blocks hashtags related to coronavirus. Instead, the service redirects users to the pages of health facilities. Instagram also blocks profiles that are not confirmed by healthcare organizations that contain material about the virus.
Google blocks advertising of medical devices and drugs at inflated prices; a temporary blocking of all advertising of masks and respirators has also been introduced. Using internal tracking mechanisms, the company removes false information and false reviews about healthcare organizations from Google Maps.
With the assistance of the US government, Google has developed a website that provides information and useful links about the spread of the pandemic. The site contains recommendations for preventing infection, addresses of medical organizations, and a map of the affected territories.
The company also blocked the issuance of coronavirus-related applications in a Google Play Store search. Instead, the company launched the Coronavirus: Stay Informed official page with links to safe and trusted apps.
A social platform in Ukraine, StopCovidua, was established to promote effective coordination between organizations, to unite volunteers, to provide psychological support to those in need, to help businesses and organizations.
The French marketplace company, Mirakl, has launched the StopCovid19.fr platform in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. It’s a marketplace where healthcare workers can discover and get hold of essential supplies like masks and protective gear, which manufacturers and other distributors are currently offering.
The Swedish digital healthcare company Kry has launched a free web-based platform allowing healthcare professionals across Europe to keep in touch with their patients.
Ukrainian IT company Vilmate has developed a HelpMed application for doctors and drivers. After a simple registration, during quarantine, participants can exchange information about their plans for moving around the city for mutual assistance. For example, a driver can specify his or her planned route. If there are doctors willing to join the driver to get to work, they leave a request – and the driver picks them up.
Valispace, creating browser-based software for engineers, provides its products for free for open-source projects tackling the pandemic. The company is also taking part in the CoVent-19 Challenge, which is solving the mechanical ventilator shortages across the globe for those in need.
The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University developed an online dashboard to visualize and track the reported cases on a daily timescale. They also made the complete set of data downloadable as a Google Sheet. The map shows new cases, confirmed deaths, and recoveries.
Veredus Laboratories, located in Singapore, is working on a portable Lab-on-Chip detection kit that is expected to be commercially available. With faster and portable detection solutions, identifying infected individuals for proper medical care will also be quicker by medical teams on the ground, especially when hospitals are overcrowded.
South Korea’s government uses surveillance technology, notably CCTV and the tracking of bank cards and mobile phones, to identify who to test in the first place. Collecting data from these sources, South Korean health authorities can pinpoint who was in close contact with an infected person or a hotspot for the disease.
If you want to use these or any other applications, please make sure that they will be safe for your device. According to cybersecurity companies’ reports, some applications may be dangerous.
Hiyacar, the car rental startup, is offering free car hire to all key workers in the UK. Another car rental startup, Virtuo, is making cars available for healthcare workers in France, Spain, and the UK for free.
The Ukrainian network of gas stations UPG will provide all regional hospitals of the country with 14 tons of fuel. The WOG gas station network will provide enough fuel for 20,000 ambulance callings. The company also purchased four mechanical ventilation devices for the hospitals, a hematology analyzer, and handed personal protective equipment for healthcare workers to medical facilities.
Swedish scooter startup Voi has spread out 25,000 of its scooters across the Nordics for those in need of safe mobility such as hospital workers, volunteers, people delivering food and medicine, and more.
How Sigma Software Collaborates with Initiators
The development of solutions to overcome the crisis is undertaken by both large IT corporations and startups that are gaining momentum. Sigma Software has been partnering with startups in various industries for more than ten years. During this time, we, like no one else, have learned to find optimal and effective solutions to almost all the problems that young companies may face. We have gained vast experience while working with different business verticals, learned the specifics of various industries. We know how to help growing companies to create sophisticated and large-scale platforms used by hundreds of end customers in dozens of countries, how to develop AdTech products on the edge of technology.
In Sigma Software, we always follow customers’ needs and aim to provide a set of services as comprehensive as possible. Broad technical expertise that can cover almost any requirement and capability of delivering the project of any complexity and scale are our main advantages.
During the crisis period, we have a special offer for startup companies offering their solutions to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Want to know more about our offer? Feel free to contact us!
Liuka is a passionate participant and driver of several communication, social, and eco projects in the company. Media, events, and texts inspire her and never let rest on achievements.