Slack, TikTok and Microsoft among supporters of Covid-19 hackathon

25 Mar 2020

Image: © fizkes/

The #BuildForCovid19 hackathon wants to address challenges in health, vulnerable populations, business, education and entertainment.

A global hackathon focusing on challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic will take place from 26 to 30 March. Applications for the event, called #BuildForCovid19, are currently open and will close early on Thursday (26 March).

The remote hackathon will see developers build software solutions and use technology to solve issues in a range of themes, which have been sourced by the event’s health partners at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

So far, the event has attracted support from major companies such as Facebook, Giphy, Microsoft, Pinterest, Slack, TikTok, Twitter and WeChat. These companies will be sharing resources to support start-ups, individuals and companies that participate in the hackathon.

The hackathon’s focus areas

#BuildForCovid19 was set up to create “an online space where developers could ideate, experiment and build software solutions to address the crisis”, according to organisers. As of this morning (25 March), the event had more than 1,600 individuals and groups signed up as participants.

With the help of the WHO, the hackathon chose seven key themes to focus on during the event: health, vulnerable populations, businesses, community, education and entertainment. The seventh category is more general and allows participants to pursue any unique ideas they have outside of these topics.

In the area of health, #BuildForCovid19 wants participants to address and scale a range of health initiatives, including preventative behaviours for at-risk countries and populations, support for frontline workers, scalable telemedicine, contact tracing strategies, treatment and diagnosis development.

For vulnerable populations, participants are being asked to come up with ideas to support the elderly and immune-compromised throughout the pandemic, by finding solutions for access to groceries and support for those who have lost jobs and income.

The hackathon is also looking for solutions to help businesses stay afloat and collaborate effectively during this time, while helping other businesses move online. Additionally, the theme of community will look for ways to connect friends, family and neighbours to combat isolation and loneliness.

It will seek new solutions for alternative learning environments and tools for students, teachers and entire school systems, as well as alternatives to traditional forms of entertainment that can keep people safe and healthy.

Building solutions

In a statement regarding the hackathon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted some of Facebook’s features that were built at similar events.

“Features like Blood Donations and Crisis Response were first built during hackathons and are now used by millions of people worldwide. I’m hopeful that some useful prototypes and ideas will come out of this one as well,” he said.

Zuckerberg recommended the event to the “engineers at Facebook and at companies and universities around the world” who are asking how they can get “more involved in the fight against Covid-19”.

The hackathon plans to release the top projects to the public on 3 April.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic