IBM deployed an accelerated timeline for its COVID-19 Call for Code and published three COVID-19-related Call for Code starter kits, which consist of guides to help developers create apps to alleviate the individual problems people and communities face during the pandemic.

Last week IBM announced its third Call for Code Global Challenge, in which entrants work toward a presentation of field-tested solutions for climate change, but this year’s challenge will also focus on COVID-19. And solutions are definitely needed for the virus.

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“We have learned how passionate developers are about solving the world’s most pressing issues, and how Call for Code’s infrastructure gives developers, data scientists, students, and subject matter experts the infrastructure they need to move from ideation through implementation,” said Daniel Krook, CTO of Call for Code. “Publishing developer friendly starter kits has been key to help get developers up-and-running fast.”

The three COVID-19 starter kits

  • Crisis communication: In a crisis, one of the first systems to be overwhelmed are communications. COVID-19 has prompted many people to seek answers about symptoms and testing sites as well as the current status of schools, transportation, and other public services. Chatbots help respond to up to thousands of messages daily. This starter kit features a preloaded virtual assistant to understand and respond to common COVID-19 questions, scan COVID-19 news articles using Watson Discovery, and respond to COVID stats inquiries.

  • Remote education: During the pandemic, learning and creativity must continue, despite educational institutions having to shift teaching methods during isolation due to the virus. It provides a set of open source tools, backed by IBM Cloud and Watson Services.

  • Community cooperation: We may be isolating in our homes, but there is a growing interest in enabling cooperation among communities to solve problems in times of crisis. This has been evidenced during the COVID-19 crisis with the local supply of food, equipment, and other supplies. Neighbors have offered to combine grocery runs and help those who have no methods of transportation. Mobile, web, and cloud services enable rapid deployment of applications to “empower cooperation in the community.”

Each includes:

  • a description of the starter solution
  • an architectural diagram
  • a tutorial with starter code
  • reference materials

The three available climate change kits

Of course, climate change remains a priority for the Code to Challenge, and three kits are also available:

  • Water sustainability: Designed for farmers, this IoT-based solution focuses on those in shifting climate realities to help monitor hyper-localized weather data and adapt crop strategies to optimize water use.

  • Energy sustainability: Most consumers aren’t aware of the energy costs associated with manufacturing, and this solution creates the framework for a new global product labeling system which would include a comprehensive Climate Impact Rating (CIR), similar to food product labels, and incentives for consumers and retailers to drive purchases of more efficient products.

  • Disaster resiliency: This kit is about prep and provides flood victims with education at all stages, with information that includes an essential survival materials checklist and real-time information on local shelters’ capacity.

Finding solutions

IBM is building a wide ecosystem of partners and tech providers to help participants round out their solutions.

“Open sourcing solutions that are created in Call for Code through IBM Code and Response is crucial to ensure that developers around the world can contribute as the technology evolves,” Krook said.

IBM reported it received 1,000 registrations in a single day, as first responders, at-risk individuals, and coders want to share experiences and contribute to creating solutions.

The initial submission deadline is now April 27, and the three best solutions will be announced on May 5. IBM hopes to work quickly, and partner with the chosen teams so the innovations will be released “in the field.” IBM will keep the track open through July for more COVID-19 solutions. Global challenge winners will be announced in October.

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IBM’s plan will be to partner, as it has before, with the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the Linux Foundation. The company asks developers, data scientists, and problem-solvers in any field to heed the Call for Code Global Challenge and “equip them with what they need to make an impact where it matters most.” The Bank of China returns as a Call for Code supporter.

A couple of months ago, IBM joined a “health hackathon” in which ideas were generated to address the world’s most pressing needs, from testing kits, to drug discovery, and supply chain. It was inspired by the developers who came up with impressive ideas in a weekend.

“We are still evaluating the submissions being submitted through Call for Code 2020 for both the COVID-19 and climate change tracks since we opened for submissions a week ago,” Krook said “We recognize the urgency to identify, build, and deploy solutions for the current pandemic.”

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