India clicks into COVID-19 Global Hackathon

India clicks into COVID-19 Global Hackathon

by Nadia Hatink
India clicks into COVID-19 Global Hackathon

An autonomous UV Disinfectant Robot, a portable-affordable ventilator and a digital hospital were among some of India’s winning entries to the Hack the Crisis worldwide initiative.

Highlights:

  • Global Hack 2020 is an online hackathon designed to share and rapidly develop ideas for solutions in the face of the current crisis.
  • India stepped up with its local version, Hack the Crisis India, inviting innovations from across the country that could go on to compete on the global stage.
  • India ranked first and second in the Crisis Response category, second in the Mental Health group, second in the Health & Wellness segment and third in the Governance category.

Technology has come into sharp focus as the world muddles its way through the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying lockdown it has imposed on large swathes of the population worldwide. It was against this backdrop that Global Hack 2020 came about as an online hackathon designed to share and rapidly develop ideas for urgently needed solutions in the face of the current crisis, as well as to build post-pandemic resilience.

The Global Hack

India, Australia, Canada, United States, Brazil, Madagascar, Oman, Nigeria, Germany and Russia were among the countries to join in as the Global Hack partnered with tech enthusiasts, business leaders, project managers, marketing experts, designers, and innovators from around the world to exchange ideas and practices to develop creative and practical prototypes.

Event co-organiser Calum Cameron said the mission is to activate a critical mass of humanity. He said: “This crisis has sparked a genuine global movement that nobody owns and everyone can participate in.

“People shut-in across the world are collaborating with tools from the start-up world at massive scale. Tools like rapid experimentation by prototyping ideas. They are finding they can solve the wicked real-world problems normally left to governments. They are discovering they are connected, and their ideas have no borders.”

India responded to the global challenge with its localised version Hack the Crisis India, inviting innovations from across the country that could go on to compete on the global stage. And, the outcome was unanimously lauded during the three-day mega online event in early April.

Despite the lockdown, Hack the Crisis India received more than 15,000 applications and 2,500 team submissions, which were more than any other country in the world.

Remarkable entries from India

Out of the 2,500 submissions, the best 300 teams were selected and given mentoring support from professionals across Europe and India. With the guidance of the mentors, the 300 teams had 48 hours to develop a working prototype mobilised for implementable solutions, with the top 30 finalist teams getting a direct entry to represent India at the Global Hackathon.

Based on its innovative entries, India was invited to lead in the following categories:

  • Crisis Response: India ranked first and second in this category, with the first winning idea being an Autonomous UV Disinfectant Robot and the second winning idea dubbed Pavan, a portable and affordable ventilator with an assist control mode for coronavirus victims.
  • Mental Health: India ranked second in this category with ASHA, a means to connect people with psychologists digitally and cater to rising mental health concerns during the pandemic.
  • Health & Wellness: India ranked second in this category with COVID Care, an AI-powered digital hospital and coronavirus laboratory.
  • Governance: An additional track in which India came in third with LookOut, an application that helps the government sustainably reallocate resources, crowdsourcing data from the users to form a Lifestyle Quality Index for a specific area.

The Global Hack team said that over 12,000 participants from 100+ countries worked on 500 life-changing projects for this initiative, which the Indian Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) described as a valuable learning experience.

“MEITY together with MyGov will definitely try to take the solutions on ground. This has been a great learning experience and I am sure all of us will come stronger out of this,” said Dr A.K. Garg, Senior Director of Meity.

“Only two things can help the world to tide over a crisis of this magnitude and they are innovation and collaboration. And this Hack the Crisis event was a classic example of the same,” added Abhishek Singh, CEO of MyGov and the Indian government’s National E-Governance Division (NeGD).

The idea of the Hackathon was to collate quick prototype-able solutions, which will go some way to help flatten the coronavirus curve and save millions of lives.

All-women team

It was an all-women team which led the Hack the Crisis India drive, the largest online initiative aimed at containing the virus and dealing with its aftermath by inviting prototype-able ideas to help deal with the pandemic.

Gayatri Chhabria and Payal Rajpal, joint heads of Hack the Crisis India, said: “We aim to strengthen and bolster the fight against COVID-19 for India.

“We are determined to contribute winning ideas from top teams the excellent prototype-able products to mobilise as solutions for the government of India, additional mentoring by global experts and the implementation of top solutions shall be accelerated to help India and global citizens.”

Fellow member Ritu Prakash Chhabria added: “The challenge we are facing is not insurmountable. What is needed is a commitment to find a solution and I am happy to share that the Global Hack has provided the platform.

“It is human instinct to survive against all odds and this is what brought bright minds together and the Global Hack is the perfect example of such a collaboration.”

Nadia Hatink is a UK-based columnist with a focus on South Asian affairs.

About the Author: Nadia Hatink