Hackathons to fight coronavirus: Govt, entrepreneurs in search of innovations

Written by Arnab Mitra
| New Delhi |

Published: April 11, 2020 12:04:16 pm

Hackathons are now being planned worldwide to fight coronavirus. Representational image/ gettyimages.in

As scientists and health workers are trying to put an end to the pandemic, various global IT firms, organisations and the Human Resource Development Ministry are also on the lookout for ideas and innovations to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The government of India has launched the hackathon ‘Samhar-Covid19’, organised by the Ministry of Information and Technology (IT), which aims to find a solution to the pandemic using new-age technologies including artificial intelligence (AI). Speaking to indianexpress.com, AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe said the purpose of organising hackathons is to get innovative ideas to deal with the global pandemic.

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“We are holding competitions to get innovations that can better our support systems — both software (application based) and hardware to fight this global pandemic. There are applications created to detect the proximity of having coronavirus. While in the hardware part, the masks, portable ventilator are good examples,” the AICTE chairman explained.

“The idea of organising hackathons is to unearth such talent and their innovations to aid mankind during the crisis,” the chairman mentioned.

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There are several industry players who are looking for these hackathons to develop new products and will get an opportunity to turn their innovations into products that may help the nation and world to come out of this crisis, commented Sahasrabudhe.

The participants did not disappoint in the recently concluded FICCI Covid-19 Hackathon. Ideas such as autonomous UV disinfectant robot: UV Robot for disinfection of quarantined spaces used by corona patients; Humans AI: Labelling data to provide a means of income to who need it most; Falcon virus tracking: risk contact determined with alert to healthcare systems, surveillance were proposed.

However, not everyone agrees this is the right approach. National Institute of Technology (NIT) Durgapur chairperson Anupam Basu remarked, “The innovations should be a regular practice. These hackathons may certainly encourage students but this appears to me as something being done in fits and starts. This is an emergency and a more professional approach is called for.”

Several other prominent hackathons were conducted worldwide including Beat the Pandemic by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Covid-19 global hackathon. 

Entrepreneur Asha Jadeja Motwani has also started a 72-hour hackathon Code-19 and is expecting around 3,000 participants from across the globe. The participants will be able to collaborate with mentors and subject-matter specialists along with various data resources during this hackathon.

“The focus of CODE-19 is on developing solutions quickly and applying them in everyday life. The participants would be tasked with decoding the Coronavirus outbreak and its impact on India, encoding smart solutions to mitigate the impending Corona-inflicted challenges,” Motwani said.

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