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Hacking the coronavirus with German engineering

20 Apr 2020Digital Society

Around the world, people find themselves with an abundance of free time. How they choose to spend this time is completely up to them – although, given the circumstances, many are confined and have limited resources.

Some may choose to reinstall their long-forgotten language-mentoring app. Others may be making up for the lost hours spent socialising with friends and family by compensating with a greater degree of time spent on video calls.

However, in Germany, citizens there have been busy contributing to their government’s ‘Solution Enabler’ programme, taking their lockdown-induced thoughts and turning them into tangible projects that are helping to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.      

The German government has announced a large-scale support programme, under the patronage of the Federal Chancellery, with the Vodafone Institute as one of its implementation partners. The institute, already recognised for the F-Lane start-up accelerator, will help teams to turn the best ideas into viable projects by channelling the necessary support and funding to the right places, enabling the ventures to be scaled-up widely and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.

The Vodafone institute supports the #WirVsVirus (we versus the virus) solutions enabler from project together in the fight against corona with start-up financing and know how, so that digital solutions can now quickly hit the streets – Inger Paus, Managing Director of the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications

We, the people, versus the virus

The #WirVsVirus (We versus the virus) hackathon was held at the start of April and engaged over 10,000 people during a 48-hour timeframe. 130 projects which showed the most promise were shortlisted.

One of the remote working teams during the 48-hour hackathon

Inger Paus, Managing Director of the Vodafone Institute, congratulated the teams behind the many excellent hackathon projects. “The German government’s #WirVsVirus hackathon is an excellent example of the creativity and ingenuity that a state-civil society collaboration can unleash in the face of major societal and economic challenges such as the Coronavirus crisis.“

We’ve highlighted five of our favourite prototype projects from the hackathon below:

1. Colivery

Having backgrounds in logistics, Hanna and the team behind Colivery have produced an online shopping experience that connects self-isolating vulnerable people with volunteers who can go and shop for them.

What’s particularly clever about this innovation is the algorithm that the team have coded into their project, which works out the most efficient supply routes for the volunteer delivery drivers, meaning that the shopping arrives as quickly as possible, and ensures that the transporters’ time is spent efficiently. This is especially important for rural regions in Germany, where the shops are few and far between. The routes are further optimised by an algorithm, as it seeks to combine several shopping lists with one route, marrying together efficient resources with purposeful technology.

2. Meinegemeinde.digital (My community)

Raphael, Julian, Max, and Simon from Meinegemiende (which translates to ‘My Community’) noticed that an inability to physically attend church during the lockdown was affecting the sense of community they typically give to the individuals who attend them. There are 25,000 congregation buildings (with a footfall of 2 million people per week) in Germany, so the team set about creating a browser and app to pull together the most appropriate resources from a service. The team of Christians aim to speak with other religious groups and extend the technology and resources to them too.

3. Open Logistics

Supply chains have clogged up. Because of this, important items such as food or medical equipment can no longer be delivered on time. Bastian Spath and his team took this problem and came up with the idea of Open Logistics. This free transport and logistics web platform enables companies and institutions to easily provide and exchange data regarding their current performance (availability, delivery times) to accept or deliver goods. A superb idea to ensure that the couriers operating in Germany are being properly utilised.

4. Machbarschaft (Feasability)

Germany has 14 million residents over 60, many of whom have no access to the internet. The team behind Machbarschaft (meaning feasibility, and a play on the word ‘nachbarschaft’, meaning neighbourhood) developed a telephone service enabling elderly people to ring a number and then have an automated bot enter their details into an app that then advertises their needs to volunteer neighbours who can then support.


5. Small Business Hero

Small Business Hero’ has set out to help small retailers with little or no experience in setting up an online shop, as well as limited funding in attaining a thorough ecommerce site. The Small Business Hero web application allows customers to find local shops in their neighbourhood, and then browse and purchase products from those businesses.
With many companies now having to shift their focus away from the traditional bricks and mortar approach, and do business in a way that’s never been done before, such technology couldn’t come at a better time.

Paresh Modi, Vodafone’s Group Head of Business Development and Innovation, said: “This is a great programme in Germany to spur innovative approaches to crisis challenges. The Institute has a lot of experience helping new ventures to become viable organisations. Some of these great projects will be able to both help at the current time and develop into viable businesses later.”

To learn more about how we're helping families, communities and businesses to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit www.vodafone.com/covid19

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