• Estonia launched a hackathon in March, to generate ideas to tackle the pandemic.
  • It was organized in a matter of hours and went global, attracting participants from 20 nations.
  • Winning entries include a simple ventilator and an interactive volunteer database.
  • Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world.

Estonia, a nation of just 1.3 million people and a recognized leader in the digital economy, held a three-day hackathon in which over 1,000 programmers came up with solutions to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hack the Crisis was launched in March, just hours after the country declared a state of emergency and closed its borders. But the virtual event attracted a truly global line-up of participants, with people joining in from more than 20 countries and across 14 timezones.

To qualify for inclusion, projects had to demonstrate their impact on the coronavirus crisis, be capable of being tested within 48 hours and they had to give Estonia a competitive advantage in a post-COVID world.

The best five were chosen to receive $5,700 (€5,000) seed funding to allow their creators to develop their ideas to the next stage – some have already gone into production.

And the winners are...

An app to connect self-isolating vulnerable people with volunteers willing to help them is among the winning five.

Then there is the ventilator which utilizes a standard hospital airbag, but automates the process of squeezing it using readily available machine parts and a hospital’s existing compressed air supply.

One team created an interactive medical volunteer database which enables doctors to get the help they need in a crisis, while another invented an app which allows companies to share workers, rather than laying them off in the pandemic.

Lastly, the organizers awarded funding to a health monitoring app which can be used to track the extent of an outbreak. As well as helping users identify their symptoms, the app also warns of nearby virus hotspots. It is already being used in Australia, as well as Estonia.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said the hackathon embodied the spirit of Estonians who like to stay calm and tackle a problem head on. “This is a genuine example of an initiative that leads people to look for solutions to the challenges we face,” she said.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications - a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

Technology leader

Estonian town hall.
In Estonia, 87% of schools were already using e-solutions before the pandemic.
Image: Diego Delso

Her country is one of the most advanced digital societies, ranked in the top three nations for e-government development in a recent survey by the United Nations. Almost all state services are online and more than a third of Estonians use digital ID to access public services.

Estonia was named Europe’s most entrepreneurial country by the World Economic Forum in its report, Europe’s Hidden Entrepreneurs, which said that entrepreneurship is a key driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.