he COVID-19 pandemic is a global socio-economic crisis as much as it is as a global health crisis. We all have a duty of care to help the seven billion people on this planet, especially those most vulnerable, to cope with the immediate and long-term impacts.

The pandemic is moving like a wave — one that may yet crash on infrastructures, individuals and communities least able to cope.

Technology can help us invest in effective responses right now.

Already it is clear that the deployment of next-generation tech is set to expand exponentially in response to this multifaceted global crisis.

At the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Azerbaijan we are now more than ever looking to tap into the ingenuity and direct experience on the ground of people from local communities to come up with solutions that can be put into practice as soon as possible.

That’s why we have partnered with Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Transport, Communication and High Technologies and SUP.VC to undertake a VIRTUAL HACKATHON to crowdsource tech solutions to help people cope with the coronavirus crisis.

What will the hackathon look like?

• It’s fully virtual — from the initial call for ideas to the selection and deployment of prototypes and solutions.

• It starts with a call inviting all developers, innovators, companies, NGOs and active community members to offer tech ideas and solutions to help improve people’s lives during this crisis.

These are some of the key challenges we would like you to help solve, though we also invite you to propose solutions to other priorities based on the needs of your local communities:

1. Supporting the most vulnerable and at-risk people

How can technology support the elderly and people with disabilities who are quarantined or self-isolating at home? Your ideas and projects can include solutions to make it easier for individuals and groups to obtain food and medicine without leaving their homes, such as platforms to help volunteers organize and provide support in a safe manner throughout the crisis.

2. Tech and health

How can technology help doctors and nurses on the front line of this pandemic? How can tech help in increasing early detection? We invite applicants to share whatever viable tech solutions they can imagine, from thermal cameras to help with detection to apps for contact tracing.

3. Support to SMEs

How can we support small business and informal sector employees stay afloat through the crisis? Could the answer be a pay-in-advance service during the quarantine, online platform ordering systems, shifts and adaptations in business models or something completely different?

4. Physical distancing and social connectedness

How can tech help people deal with prolonged periods of social isolation, lack of access to information and resources, emotional and physical support? We invite solutions to help build resilience and brace for the weeks and months ahead of potential travel restrictions, closure of gathering places, border shutdowns and flight bans.

5. Improving awareness and behaviour and getting public advice

With information changing every hour, it is increasingly difficult for people to keep up with advice and regulations they need to know and to ensure they get accurate information from official and reliable channels only. How can we use tech to ensure the public are engaged and informed about the ongoing situation without causing panic?

6. Tech and education

How can tech be used to deliver virtual lessons, upload teaching materials and enable effective distance learning for children, students and people with disabilities?

7. Tech and engineering

We invite applicants to offer any ideas they can come up with to help create physical objects to help detect, prevent or treat coronavirus. Solutions could include infection sensors, hygiene hacks, DIY facemasks and disinfection methods.

8. Tech for everyday lives

What kinds of tech tools could make people’s everyday lives easier at minimal risk and still allow them to carry out their essential grocery shopping, laundry, etc.?

9. Tech for Tourism

How can tech help in servicing guests? What will the new health and safety travel standards look in the future? Which mitigation measures could help respond to the adverse economic effects in tourism? What about employment opportunities for tourism workers who are currently out of jobs? Ideas for tools that could help hotels and restaurants adapt their business models, stay-healthy travel apps? Could tech help in creating a crisis management fund for the entire tourism industry? Will health tourism be the thing of the future?

10. Tech and Environment

How can tech support a greener and cleaner planet in times of COVID-19? Can we make sure that the economic rescue packages dealing with the impact of the coronavirus will integrate green and digital aspects in the post-pandemic period? What are the ways of making a case for measures to decarbonize economies? How can we reduce single-use plastics that may become a vehicle of virus transmission?

OU CAN ALSO PROPOSE YOUR OWN CHALLENGE — If you or your neighbourhood are facing a specific COVID-19 challenge that could be tackled with tech then we highly welcome your proposed solutions.


If so, here’s what you need to do:

Complete this Google form by 9 April, telling us about your team, your idea and how it will help solve one of the challenges outlined above.

Preference will be given to ideas that can be put into practice as soon as possible.

The jury will make their final decisions based on whether your solution contributes to solving the challenge more effectively, rapidly and cheaply than existing solutions — especially if the solution can easily and quickly be scaled to help people at regional, national and even international level.

Some funding is available too to help launch each successful idea.

Alongside the hope of tech solutions, we must remind everyone that old-fashioned approaches to staying healthy can also help, including washing your hands.

Make sure to follow the instructions given by your local health authorities and WHO for keeping yourself and your family members healthy.

Follow: #tekkieheroes for regular updates.

A blog by the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Azerbaijan

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store