How can the world counter COVID-19 online? UN issues hackers’ challenge to CodeTheCurve

6 April 2020

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is inviting young innovators, data scientists and designers throughout the world – especially those whose schools have closed due to COVID-19 - to join a month-long hackathon to come up with digital solutions to the global pandemic. 

CodeTheCurve, which gets underway on Monday, with a four-day video competition for ideas, will see 40 selected teams focus on three major challenges - access to distancing learning; information and data management, including combatting disinformation and misinformation; and addressing social and health issues now and after the new coronavirus crisis has passed. 

Your planet needs YOU: UNESCO chief 

“We know that there are young women and men around the world with new and innovative ideas on how technology can help us handle the pandemic, but they need support to bring them to fruition,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in a statement. 

“Through this hackathon, in association with our partners (global computing and software giants IBM and SAP), we hope to help make these ideas a reality,” she said. 

Participating hackers will get experience pitching their innovative solutions from a variety of organizations that are supporting the CodeTheCurve initiative, UNESCO said.  Selected teams will be able to benefit from webinars and activities kits from IBM, SAP, FOASSASIA, iHackOnline and others. 

The call for applications opens today and closes on 9 April, with the 40 teams to be announced on 15 April.   

Brainstorming online education 

With so many young people around the world finding themselves at home due to school closures, CodeTheCurve fills a need for practical, fun and virtual education, said Melissa, Sassi, Global Head and of the IBM Z Global Student Hub and IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator. 

“Empowering youth with tech skills, entrepreneurial zest, professional development and mentorship is really the secret sauce for inspiring the world to transition from consumers of technology into creators, makers and doers empowered by technology,” she said. 

On IBM’S dedicated CodeTheCurve website, Ms. Sassi – who also has the title of “Chief Penguin” of the IBM Z Student Hub – said the hackathon is open to persons at least 16 years of age who can put together a gender-inclusive group of no more than six developers, data scientists and friends from other fields. 

Team requirements

At least one person in each group must be under the age of 25 and all groups must have at least one female and one male member.  While 40 teams will be selected for the hackathon, others will still get an opportunity to showcase their skills for consideration. 

Participants will free access to the IBM LinuxONE Community Cloud, given them open accesss to an enterprise-grade Linux environment for development needs, Sassi explained. 

Claire Gilliseen-Duval, Director of EMEA Corporate Social Responsibility and Africa Code Week co-founder at SAP, said that in unprecedented times, young innovators must be empowered as they engage in finding solutions to a crisis that has impacted 183 countries and affected 1.5 billion students worldwide. 

In a statement, UNESCO said the initiative builds on its long-standing efforts to foster digital skills and professional development competencies for youth – with a particular focus on young women software developers and designers. 


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

UN launches COVID-19 plan that could ‘defeat the virus and build a better world’

The UN chief launched on Tuesday a new plan to counter the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling on everyone to “act together to lessen the blow to people”.

UN health chief announces global ‘solidarity trial’ to jumpstart search for COVID-19 treatment

Just 60 days after the genetic sequence of COVID-19 was shared by China, the first vaccine trial has begun, the UN health chief said on Wednesday, calling it “an incredible achievement” and urging the world to maintain “the same spirit of solidarity” that has helped fight Ebola.