Life Tech Coronavirus hackathon: Hackers around the world compete to #flattenthecurve
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Coronavirus hackathon: Hackers around the world compete to #flattenthecurve

A pen and pad with the word COVID-19 written on it and an ethernet cord.
Hackers from around the world have tackled five big coronavirus challenges. Photo: Getty
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Thousands of hackers around the world have taken to their keyboards in an effort to use technology to solve problems created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week more than 2700 people, including judges, mentors, observers, volunteers and participants, took part in a two-day #flattenthecurvehack organised by the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

“It was a global challenge,” said Steve Nouri, hackathon leader and ACS head of data science.

Of the 2300 participants, 80 per cent were from Australia, 5 per cent from India, 3 per cent from the United States, two per cent from China, and the rest from 10 more countries.

A hackathon is “an online competition that normally runs for a limited time, usually 48 to 72 hours”, Mr Nouri explained.

The #flattenthecurvehack was a “social good” challenge focused on solving issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s something that everyone right now relates to, not just in Australia, but globally,” Mr Nouri said.

It’s the most important challenge everybody’s facing … right now everybody cares.’’

The hackers were tasked with solving five major challenges involving:

  • Education
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • The future of work
  • Locating vulnerable people and protecting them from COVID-19 infection, and;
  • Helping the health system operate more effectively and get the resources it needs.
Modern technology allows our most creative minds to remain focused on solving society’s greatest problems even during lockdown,’’ ACS chief executive Andrew Johnson said.

“We’re looking to emerge stronger from the current difficult situation caused by the coronavirus, driven by the best that Australian innovation has to offer.”

The #flattenthecurvehack was participant Mengyao Wang’s first hackathon.

“I always thought that it was something more for computer science wizzes or programmers,” she said.

“But this challenge was different.”

Ms Wang said the plight of those affected by the pandemic had motivated her to take part.

My nana is confined in a nursing home right now because of this, and so many others have it worse,’’ she said.

“So, I stood up. It was super easy and friendly being onboarded and I’ve already met some amazing tech and domain mentors who can bolster my design and humanitarian interests.”

The hackers judged to have found the best solutions will share in a $50,000 prize pool, with three winners to be announced in each of the five categories on Tuesday.

When it comes to implementing the winning ideas, Mr Nouri said there has already been support from business partners and interest from federal ministers.

“We are hoping to be a connecter and inspire others to learn from the ideas and maybe enhance them or add to them,” he said.

“[The hackathon] saw people around the world coming together, making change, and delivering ideas … and the quality is amazing.”