Times of international crisis — like wars, economical collapses or pandemics — are never welcome, yet they seem inevitable and are, sadly, a natural part of human existence. It’s hard to look for positives when the world is bleeding, but difficult times have proven to be a perfect environment for remarkable people to shine bright.
Pro Publico Bono IT Solutions to Help People in Need
A fine example of that are COVID-19 Hackathons organised all around the world. They have one goal: to develop technological solutions that will help people. Many innovations are going to assist officials at their work at hospitals and offices. Other will keep people’s morale high during quarantine. And some may even help saving lives — literally speaking.
After a huge success of the German Hackathon — which delivered more than 800 projects, developed by an impressive number of 42 869 participants — we’ve learned this week that some of the biggest technical companies partnered up with the World Health Organization (WHO) to contribute to a new, similar project. Participants have until the 30th of March to submit their ideas. They are not limited in choosing what solution they would like to build, but the WHO highlighted some areas that are in dire straits and require the most help.
In this entry, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the solutions from PGS’ motherland: Poland. The local hackathon — self-organised by volunteers and sponsored by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister (KPRM) with partners like AWS, Google, Microsoft, Ernst & Yong (and many others) — just finished last weekend; its goal was to develop ideas which can be prototyped in 3-5 days and could help in fields of education, isolation or facts & data.
Detecting COVID-19 With Deep Learning
Luckily, about 80% of infected suffer only mild symptoms — or even none at all. Yet, although that’s undeniably great, it’s also a challenge when it comes to preventing the spreading of the disease. Even those, who show absolutely no symptoms, can infect others. And from a long run perspective, it’s important to keep the number of new infected stable — mainly to flatten the curve and avoid overrunning hospitals at once. Unfortunately, many countries simply do not possess enough tests.
The hackathon idea presented by AGHTechMed offers a solution — a highly effective deep learning detection system based on X-rays.
Using about 80 photographs from various scientific practices as basis for their work, the developers already prognosed a 97% effectiveness of the system. Now, it should be tested on patients in hospitals and trained further, if needed. This could be a game changer especially for poor countries, where even people at risk are struggling to get tested. And all of this for free — the project is available on the internet for everyone to use.
Mommy’s Working Now (“Mama teraz pracuje”)
COVID-19 crippled many branches of economy. Tourism is dead. Hotels are nearly completely empty. The aviation industry is weeping — some carriers already filed for bankruptcy. Small businesses have no chances for survival without government support. Many people are out of their jobs.
In that already dire situation, a number of occupational groups found themselves in an exceptionally hopeless spot. Among them are, for example, artists (like actors) or leisure time animators — professionals, who often don’t work on a contract of employment basis and, as a result, possess no legal protection they could rely on.
“Mommy’s working now” is a website that could help them get some work and, additionally, relieve parents working remotely at home.
With schools being cancelled for (what looks like) at least a few more months, many children don’t have much to do. Thanks to “Mommy’s working now”, parents can connect with underworked educators to book on-line lessons — and, in the process, help them make a living.
Shopping for a Senior — But It’s More Than You Think
Since seniors are most at risk from COVID-19, many younger people volunteered to relieve them of grocery shopping. Moreover, some people suggested to create a web platform, where seniors could place their orders.
But… How many older people are actually acquainted with using the internet?
Artifai, a young team of students, came up with a more practical idea — an app which could be reached via SMS. From the senior’s perspective, it’s very easy — the application only requires a text message with a list of groceries and the name of their neighbourhood. The list then pops up on the app’s wall and a volunteer ca take over.
Finally, the senior needs to send his whereabouts to the volunteer who responded to the request. And that’s an additional protection — the address is shared only with the one person and isn’t stored anywhere.
The future of these project is yet uncertain — but it looks promising.
Winners of the polish edition received rewards from the Prime Minister of Polish Government. Triumphant projects of the German COVID-19 Hackathon have a chance of being implemented by the authorities themselves.
Additionally, the previously mentioned currently running Hackathon, supported by tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook, TikTok, WeChat or Twitter and endorsed by the WHO, looks especially promising. The requested categories include ways to support frontline healthcare workers, supporting the elderly and vulnerable members of the community, scaling telemedicine, solutions for lessening the mental impact of social isolation, alternative learning environments for student and, lastly, entertainment. We should all keep our fingers crossed, but let’s be real — with such a strong backing, failure seems impossible!