IBM Think: IBM Rallies Global Coders to Help Battle COVID-19

Charlotte Dunlap – Principal Analyst, Application Platforms

Summary Bullets:

• IBM Call to Code program builds momentum via prestigious partners and 300,000 global coders.

• IBM Cloud and Watson (AI) services are available to coders via open-source software (OSS) tools.

The power of technology to help solve real-world problems is perhaps most eloquently illustrated through the three winners of the COVID-19-related applications associated with IBM’s latest coding contest.

IBM’s two-year-old Call for Code Global Challenge campaign was initially launched in 2018 seeking innovative applications to address climate change. The program was expanded recently to include COVID-19, which spurred a massive response, including 1,000 developer registrations in a single day soon after being announced. Presently the program includes 300,000 developers across 168 countries.

Winners of the most recent campaign announced this week are:

• Are You Well: a comprehensive medical assistance system which leverages IBM Watson to provide a self-help rating system of COVID-19 symptoms, created by a team from Altran in India.

• CovidImpact: an app that aims to reduce the financial impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, created by a global team within the University of British Columbia, leveraging IBM’s Watson Tone Analyzer linguistic analysis and IBM ILOG CPLEX rules engine for decision making.

• Safe Queue: a community driven app to replace physical lines at shopping centers which threaten people’s social distancing safety, using GPS location data leveraging IBM Cloud Foundry and Cloudant, created by an individual in Los Angeles.

In partnership with United Nations Human Rights and The Linux Foundation, IBM put out the call for global brainstorming among developers, first responders, data scientists, and others. Unlike past challenges, IBM pressed participants to act fast, considering the fast-moving coronavirus, and submit initial applications in a matter of weeks, just in time for this week’s IBM Think conference, while continuing to source further ideas throughout the year.

IBM is helping to orchestrate the partnerships and production to get these applications out to various communities, as it has done over the past 18 months with past app developer winners. For example, Anthem is partnering with Altran to implement the Are You Well app. The program’s prestige has garnered prominent interest and support among government leaders and celebrities including Bill Clinton and Lady Gaga. Helping judge this series of apps were Clinton, Mark Cuban, Mami Mizurtori of United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Laurent Sauveur of United Nations Human Rights.

IBM published three COVID-19 starter kits to the community. Those kits include core IBM technology including Watson Assistant virtual assistant chatbots pre-loaded to communicate common COVID-19 questions. IBM Cloud and Watson services are available to coders via open-source software (OSS) tools. The program encourages software developers to tackle advanced applications by leveraging IBM’s emerging app development technologies, including AI, big data, cloud, blockchain, and microservices. These technologies rely on modern application development architectures, which will pave the way for the world’s largest enterprises to run their mission critical applications going forward.


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