By Willie Tejada
Nearly one month ago, together with Creator David Clark Cause and in partnership with United Nations Human Rights and the Linux Foundation, we announced climate change as the theme for the 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge. In that brief period, much has changed. COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has spread across the world with unprecedented effect and now has the potential to become the greatest crisis of modern times. From its inception, Call for Code was created to take on society’s most pressing issues, which is why we are expanding this year’s Challenge to address both climate change and COVID-19, two urgent crises that have the power to compromise our health, our planet, and our survival. We’re asking developers, data scientists, and problem solvers to answer the Call.
In a very short period of time, COVID-19 has revealed the limits of the systems we take for granted. The 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge will arm you with resources (see here) to build open source technology solutions that address three main COVID-19 areas: crisis communication during an emergency, ways to improve remote learning, and how to inspire cooperative local communities.
Crisis communication: In times of crisis, communications systems are one of the first systems to become overwhelmed. Chatbots help respond to tens, even hundreds, of thousands of messages a day. Whether via text, websites, or communication apps like WhatsApp, being able to converse with chatbots and other resources can play a critical role in helping communities understand everything they need to know rapidly and free up customer service resources to focus on higher-level issues. Whether that’s correct hand washing procedures, how to properly detect symptoms, or local updates on quarantine, providing crisis communications digitally has a major role to play.
Remote education: Where possible, people who are self-isolating are being asked to work from home, which presents its own set of challenges: transitioning to a new home office or as some schools close for the foreseeable future, children find themselves stuck indoors for long periods of time. It is important to keep them engaged, entertained, and on top of their education. Technology has a pivotal role to play, whether that’s creating ad hoc classrooms, or helping parents quickly adapt to homeschooling.
Community cooperation: Your local community must stand united, operate efficiently, and be there for its constituents more than ever before. Understanding not only what is happening in your neighborhood, but also how you can help others, or how others can help you, is vital. Consider how you can incorporate everything from weather data to local food and medical supply information to help your local community better deal with a crisis — especially those who need it most.
On climate change
As previously planned, today we are revealing our 2020 Call for Code Challenge climate change starter kits (see here). These three quick-start guides explain the individual problems people and communities are facing, and help you start creating applications tied to easy-to-understand use cases in just minutes.
To help define the specific situations caused by climate change where your innovations could be most helpful, a few weeks ago IBM partnered with the world’s leading humanitarian experts for our kickoff event in Geneva at the historic Palais Wilson, Headquarters of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Together with UN humanitarian experts, and eminent technologists from Red Hat, JP Morgan Chase, Persistent Systems, Unity Technologies, NearForm, and Johnson & Johnson, we collaborated to create our three climate change starter kits.
Each kit focuses on a key topic — water sustainability, energy sustainability, and disaster resiliency — essential to halting and reversing climate change, and grounded in real-world needs defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. These are the areas where you can have the greatest impact:
Water sustainability: This IoT-based solution aims to help farmers, particularly those in shifting climate realities, monitor hyper-localized weather data and adapt their crop strategies to optimize water usage.
Energy sustainability: With a goal of building consumer awareness about energy costs across the manufacturing process, this solution creates the framework for a new global product labeling system that would include a comprehensive Climate Impact Rating (CIR), similar to the labels on food products, with incentives for consumers and retailers to drive purchases of more efficient products.
Disaster resiliency: To help communities prepare for floods, this app will provide residents with education at all stages of an event, from a checklist of essential survival materials to real-time information on the capacity of local shelters.
The kits include a description of the starter solution, an architectural diagram, and a tutorial with starter code and reference materials. With these starter kits, you can get a head start creating a sustainable solution to halt and reverse climate change. To further increase the impact you can make, IBM is building a wide ecosystem of partners and tech providers to help participants round out their solutions. For example, the HERE Location Services APIs let you access geospatial data, routing, geofencing and interactive maps.
We’ll follow up in a week with more details on our three COVID-19-specific starter kits to help you jump-start your solutions. As with climate change, we are working with some of the world’s leading experts to define the most pressing needs and provide the most helpful resources. That said, you don’t need to wait. You can register and get started now creating applications with our open source-powered software built on Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud, IBM Watson, IBM Blockchain, and data from The Weather Company. As we’ve done the previous two years, IBM will work with the teams who create the most promising solutions to build, fortify, test, and deploy them through IBM Code and Response.
Together, we have the power to use the latest technology in ways that make an immediate and lasting humanitarian impact in local communities and across the globe.
Thank you for answering the Call in this unprecedented time in our history.
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