UN contest calls for low-cost, open-source Covid-19 solution

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The race is on to design a low-cost and open-source technology solution for the detection and prevention of Covid-19 in the most vulnerable areas.

The global competition, dubbed “Covid-19 Detect and Protect Challenge”, is open until August 2020. It is being organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN’s development arm, and Hackster.io, the world’s largest online open-source technology hardware community. 

The idea is to put 10 economical and easy-to-produce technology solutions on the ground to minimize the strain on healthcare systems and help flatten the curve in poor countries.

Projects will be curated by Hackster and the UNDP, which will also work with each creator to deploy their projects to the frontlines where it is needed most.

Twelve technology companies are supporting the initiative. These are Amazon Web Services, Arduino, Arm, Edge Impulse, Google, Microsoft, Nordic Semiconductor, Nvidia, NXP, Soracom, SG Innovate and The Things Network, each of whom will provide sponsorship, prizes and hardware and/or design support for a selection of project submissions.

It builds on initiatives similar to the global “Hack the Crisis” movement launched April 10 to find urgent solutions against Covid-19.

UNDP’s Global Center for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development, based in Singapore, will tap UNDP country offices and partner tech companies to meet the needs of those who lack of resources and where Covid-19 could have the greatest impact.

UNDP will work with governments to help ensure regulations, procurement procedures and policies to catalyze and make use of the tech innovations.

“The Covid-19 Detect and Protect Challenge aims to surface innovative solutions that developing countries can immediately use to tackle the pandemic,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner. “That could be everything from new 3D-printable protective equipment to software that can detect future outbreaks.”

He said UNDP’s global network and the diverse resources of its partners will work with the winning creators to disseminate the knowledge and assist those who are hardest hit by the pandemic.

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