World Health Organization, Facebook, Microsoft team up in COVID-19 hackathon

#BuildforCOVID19 focuses on the development of technology of value during the coronavirus outbreak.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has teamed up with tech giants to launch a coronavirus-themed hackathon to develop useful technologies for those impacted by the pandemic. 

On Tuesday, the WHO, alongside Microsoft, Facebook, Giphy, Pinterest, Slack, TikTok, Twitter, and WeChat said the global #BuildforCOVID19 hackathon "is an opportunity for developers to build software solutions that drive social impact, with the aim of tackling some of the challenges related to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic."

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in over 435,000 confirmed cases, at the time of writing, worldwide. 

As many developers are now staying at home or working remotely, the technology giants are urging them to put their talents to good use and create both local and international solutions for some of the challenges surfacing due to COVID-19. 

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"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," the companies say. 

Entrants are given themes and problems sourced from the WHO and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and can design solutions with the "technologies of their choice." These include:

  • Ways to support frontline healthcare workers
  • Supporting the elderly and vulnerable members of the community
  • How to scale telemedicine
  • Solutions for lessening the mental impact of social isolation
  • Alternative learning environments for students
  • Entertainment 

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Each participating company is providing resources for developers. In a public post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said:

"Hackathons have always been an important part of how we come up with new ideas and projects at Facebook -- features like Blood Donations and Crisis Response were first built during hackathons and are now used by millions of people worldwide. I'm hopeful that some useful prototypes and ideas will come out of this one as well."

Project submissions open Thursday, but if you're interested, you can register now. At the time of writing, close to 2,000 developers have already signed up.

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The overall deadline for ideas -- which must include a two-minute video walkthrough on YouTube or Vimeo -- is March 30. The projects accepted for the scheme will be announced on April 3. 

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