Bringing the power of global innovation to tackle COVID-19

April 15, 2020


The fight against coronavirus COVID-19 is at a crucial tipping point. All over the world lives have been lost, and changed beyond recognition. Now, COVID-19 threatens to take hold in the developing world. In this context of often-fragile health systems and social structures, its impact could be catastrophic.

In response, and in little over two weeks of around-the-clock working, UNDP and Hackster, the largest online open-source hardware community, have mobilized some of the biggest names in the technology world, with support from Amazon Web Services, Arduino, Arm, Avnet, Edge Impulse, Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA, NVP, Nordic Semiconductor, Soracom, and The Things Industries. In partnership, we are launching the COVID-19 Detect & Protect Challenge.

We are calling on all hardware and software developers, product designers, scientists, hackers, makers, innovators and inventors to come together and help those who could be most affected by this pandemic. This initiative is a major global effort to identify innovative solutions for the developing world that are easy to produce and low-cost.

The aim of the COVID-19 Detect & Protect Challenge is simple: to build a global platform of open-source solutions that can detect COVID-19 cases, prevent the spread of the disease, and protect individuals and societies. UNDP and Hackster will collaborate with those who develop promising innovations over the coming weeks and, together with our global tech partners and worldwide network of country offices, work to get these solutions to those on the frontlines of fighting this pandemic.

These efforts will be targeted to meet the needs of countries and regions where COVID-19 could have the greatest impact: the developing world. In fragile settings, the disease threatens to create devastating social, economic, and political crises. It has real potential to reverse the progress made over recent decades, and stall or irreparably damage the world’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The global impact of COVID-19 has reaffirmed how the difficulties we are encountering in the 21st century do not respect borders. In the context of such a massive and unprecedented challenge, it is essential that innovation and other solutions are also not constrained by geography, or other barriers.

Echoing this importance, our focus on open-source solutions, and our commitment to innovation more broadly, aims to identify and mobilize promising ideas wherever they may be found. In the face of this humanitarian emergency, we need to catalyze human ingenuity from every region, country, and community. This will be crucial in the fight against COVID-19, and critical to prevent more lives from being affected, destroyed, and lost.  Together, we can win.