This country came up with 5 novel ideas to tackle the pandemic

tallin

Tallin, Estonia (Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Seán Doyle, Project Lead, Industry Solutions, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum


  • 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.

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.

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