WHO collaborates with Big Tech for mega COVID-19 hackathon

man coding on computer with code lighting up his face

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has partnered with major tech firms to launch a global hackathon, with developers invited to support the COVID-19 fightback and businesses struggling through the pandemic.

Developers are being encouraged to register their interest for the week-long event to be held in April, designed to build and generate software that can tackle some of the wider economic and social challenges related to the pandemic.

Entries into the #BuildforCOVID19 hackathon can be based around several themes outlined by WHO, including health, vulnerable populations and community, as well as education, businesses, and entertainment.

Developers are also being encouraged, however, to get creative with their entries and don’t need to necessarily stick to these ideas.

The spread of the virus has had a measurable impact on healthcare systems, government agencies, and businesses from all sectors over the course of 2020.

While many companies have had their workforce shift to remote working, others have seen revenues dry up and business grind to a halt.

Registration has opened with Devpost, a company that hosts countless hackathons each year, with developers able to submit completed projects from 26 March until 9am PST (5pm BST) on 30 March. All entries must be submitted alongside a two-minute video walkthrough.

The judges, who are yet to be announced, will offer feedback after the deadline, before connecting with the highlighted projects and showcasing these on 3 April 2020.

The likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Slack will support individuals submitting projects into the hackathon with company resources. They will also be joined by Giphy, Pinterest, TikTok and WeChat.

“With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, governments have issued guidance for members of the community to practice social distancing, while companies have enforced work from home policies in an effort to flatten the curve of viral infections across the population,” Devpost said.

“Given the isolation currently being experienced within communities right now, we want to create an online space where developers could ideate, experiment and build software solutions to help address this crisis.”

Successful entries can either take the shape of a production-ready platform for immediate impact, or an “awesome proof-of-concept” with bags of potential.

Examples that fall into the latter, more conceptual category include tools for helping people with supplies, combating loneliness, or replacing income with work-from-home options. Production-ready projects will be favoured by the judges, however.

There are no cash prizes, with the reward for successful projects being a combination of social impact and recognition throughout the wider tech community and partner networks.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.