Big Tech joins WHO for coronavirus hackathon

The Big Tech world is coming together for a hackathon aimed at stopping the coronavirus.

Battling the current coronavirus pandemic takes a team effort. From governments to businesses to individuals, everyone is working together to find ways to slow the spread of the virus and develop a cure for COVID-19, the disease that it causes.

Soon, Facebook, Microsoft, and (surprisingly) TikTok will partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) for a global hackathon. The event aims to find software solutions that help address the challenges raised by the coronavirus pandemic. Several other Big Tech companies will be joining the effort, showing a front of unity in response to the public health crisis.

Helpful Software

The idea of a hackathon is nothing new. Many companies host them internally every year to spark innovation and excitement as well as to reward their most talented developers. For instance, Amazon’s AWS branch hosts a Hackathon for Good to build software prototypes for charitable organizations.

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The coronavirus hackathon will work a little differently since developers won’t be meeting in person. Submissions will run from March 26-30 and are open to anyone that registers. The projects will be judged and winners will be selected on April 3.

However, the more important outcome of the event, called #BuildforCOVID19, is to find production-ready software innovations that can help fight the crisis.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, “Hackathons have always been an important part of how we come up with new ideas and projects at Facebook.”

He goes on to note that some impactful health projects are often born during these events. Zuck said, “Features like Blood Donations and Crisis Response were first built during hackathons.”

Facebook isn’t the only company that is supporting the event. Along with Microsoft and TikTok, tech companies like Slack, Pinterest, Twitter, WeChat, Giphy, and Slow Ventures are also involved.

Front-End Collaboration

While developers and tech companies will provide the technical expertise for the hackathon, they won’t be doing it alone. Addressing problems related to the coronavirus crisis requires collaboration.

As such, the WHO and other public health experts will help by providing guidance on the types of projects that will be most beneficial. Generally, the event is for those working on software that focuses on health. However, the organizers of the hackathon are keeping the guidelines fairly broad.

If a developer wants to turn in something dealing with entertainment that helps keep people occupied while they stay at home, they’re more than welcome to.

As for recognition, the awards for this hackathon will be far more meaningful than most. Though there is no financial prize, many of the projects submitted during the contest will have a positive social impact as the world seeks new ways to deal with the coronavirus. Meanwhile, projects selected by the judges will be shared across the tech space.

When the great minds of the tech world rally together, few things are impossible—even fending off a global pandemic. In conjunction with leading public health authorities like the WHO, the #BuildforCOVID19 hackathon should yield some innovative new solutions.


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