Switzerland has been in a lockdown for two weeks now. How do you personally deal with the current situation?
The current situation creates a number of challenges and uncertainties, especially as an event organizer. However, we are working towards the Digital Festival and HackZurich taking place on schedule from 17 to 20 September 2020. As a team, we have come to terms with the new situation well and were already used to working from anywhere (including home office). As for many people worldwide, the current situation means a big change, to which I react with a lot of patience, understanding and openness.
How did you get the idea to create the Hackathon CodeVsCOVID19?
When we met two weeks ago for a viral exchange in the team, we thought about how we could make a tangible contribution in the current difficult situation to make life easier for those who are particularly hard hit and to come to a perhaps even faster end to this crisis. With HackZurich we can reach more than 15,000 technology specialists worldwide within a very short time. This is both a privilege and a great responsibility. In addition, we have many years of experience in the efficient implementation of systematic mass collaborations. This is an approach that leads to concrete results in the shortest possible time. It was the combination of these factors that tipped the scales in favor of us no longer wanting to be observers of the situation but to make an active contribution.
How did you experience the 72 hours during the hack?
The 72 hours were very intense. Especially since the preparation of the hackathon itself was already a marathon. Nevertheless, it was incredible to experience the solidarity of the community, the innovative ideas, the great motivation and also the drive of the mentors and participants. Nearly 3,000 people invested 72 hours of their free time to contribute. We have never experienced this in the intensity and size of the event, nor did we expect it to be on this scale. We as organizers are personally very touched.
What are the most important results?
The results are very diverse. The focus was on topics such as machine learning, data aggregation for health systems, logistics and merchandise management, social issues, culture and society. This has resulted in many specific forms of assistance and solutions that can make our lives easier. The results are public and can be viewed at https://codevscovid19.devpost.com/submissions.
For example, COVID Chronicles has been created during the 72 hours hackathon. It visualizes the spread of the virus over time and sets these numbers into perspective by providing newspaper articles for each day:
What happens now?
The focus is now on developing the solutions quickly and applying them in everyday life wherever possible. We are making a clear appeal to partners and the media to share the results of the initiative as widely as possible so that the solutions can be adapted in everyday life and further developed in line with needs. Anyone interested in contributing to the further development of the projects can contact us directly.
The community will continue to be maintained and actively supported in the coming weeks so that the exchange will continue. Participants will also be motivated to participate in follow-up initiatives in the respective countries and regions. The next personal meeting point for the community will be HackZurich, which will take place from 18 to 20 September 2020 as part of the Digital Festival in Zurich.
Jonathan Isenring is Co-Founder and Director of Digital Festival Zürich and HackZurich.