The unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has an impact on all health and other sectors. Therefore, the United Nations in Egypt cooperated with the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, DELL Technologies and Novartis Egypt, which is one of the leading institutions in the field of medicines, to take quick action. They organized the Hack the Virus challenge to engage Egyptian youth and startups in providing technology solutions to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 100 young men and women from Egypt up to an age of 30 from many Egyptian universities participated, including Cairo University, Alexandria, Menoufia, Mansoura and Minya. Topics they worked on included teleworking modalities, home schooling, mitigating mental health impact and other issues arising from the pandemic. Solutions developed during the challenge aim to tackle the crisis with the help of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud computing, data science and analysis.
“The United Nations in Egypt is supporting young Egyptians to come up with innovative digital solutions in our fight against the coronavirus,” said UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt, Richard Dictus. “I am very enthusiastic that so many young Egyptians are taking on the biggest challenges of our time, through innovation, entrepreneurship and new ideas. Young innovators from Egypt are not just providing solutions to COVID-19 but also to all developmental challenges facing Egypt”.
Total value of hackathon prizes was 300,000 EGP, with prizes ranging between 31,300 EGP and 125,200 EGP.
Five pioneering projects won the competition:
COVID-19 Medical Supply Prediction System: It is a project presented by a team of three young women and men who are computer engineering students and specialized in the field of graphics. All of them are under the age of 25. They want to find a solution that addresses the current crisis by building a model, utilizing AI and machine learning, to forecast health commodities needs. This model will link the case estimates to the demand curve for medical equipment and medicines, thereby providing accurate and early insights and ideas.
Fruitful Solutions - Dual camera to check multiple vital signals remotely: It is a project presented by a team of a doctor and engineers from Alexandria under the age of 30. This camera examines many vital signs that will help to reduce the spread of the epidemic and provide data on the nature of the virus at present in crowded places.
COVID-19 Kits: It is a project presented by a group of high school students from several Egyptian governorates. The project aims to ensure that patients are in the correct position so they are able to breathe during emergency contact while maintaining physical distance. The team will be awarded for their utmost dedication and ability to innovate, especially as they are high school students. The committee also agreed to give the team all available resources and enroll them in the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) Acceleration Program to help them work on a prototype for the project.
1000 Salama: An engineer and a doctor under the age of 30 presented the first Arabic online platform with a chatbot that performs medical diagnosis using AI. It is a smart tool that assesses symptoms in Arabic, helps assess health complaints and recommends a medical specialist as needed.
Transtopia: Five computer engineering students presented the app with assistive technological solutions which allows people with disabilities (deaf and with hearing disabilities) to communicate with others smoothly through a real-time sign language translator chatbot. The chatbot interacts with people with disabilities to give them basic instructions by analyzing their sign language gesture and generating spoken language from sign language real-time videos. This will make COVID-19 news about precautions and prevention more accessible.
Prizes are not limited to financial prizes but include taking advantage of the incubator Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center to speed up the work, and networking with stakeholders of different industries.
The United Nations contributed to the organization of this competition through five entities: United Nations Technology and Innovation Labs (UNTIL), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Fighting COVID-19 together: UN Interagency Collaboration and Partnerships
The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and threatens to leave deep social and economic scars. It demands a concerted effort and bold, new thinking to find solutions together. Echoing this importance, Hack the Virus brings together cross-sectoral and interagency collaboration and galvanizes the broader tech community to find urgent solutions for COfVID-19 while promoting the enhancement of digital transformation. The strengthened cooperation between UN agencies and private and public sector stakeholders is now more crucial than ever in the fight against COVID-19.
The UN in Egypt
UN Agencies in Egypt are committed to fostering innovative solutions, and to supporting potential entrepreneurs and innovators to create technological solutions addressing developmental challenges in Egypt. They work to support the Government of Egypt in achieving its national priorities and development plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The 2030 Agenda, a blueprint to achieve a better and sustainable future for all, positions Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) as key means of implementation of the SDG. STI is also crucial in finding solutions to curbing the spread and impact of COVID-19 by promoting economic growth through increasing efficiency, international competitiveness and productivity while alleviating the societal challenges highlighted by a global pandemic such as COVID-19.
"The advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, are generating revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing.
I am convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leap‑frog into a better future."
23 March 2018, New York