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Lessons From Estonia’s COVID-19 Crisis Response

5 minute read
Estonia has launched an online hackathon to recover from COVID-19 and find competitive advantages that the country can benefit from post-pandemic.
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Addressing a global crisis as serious as COVID-19 requires a multisectoral approach. Governments with administrations working in isolation from one another lack the practical skills and abilities to deal with every aspect of a health crisis, such as COVID-19. Therefore, these governments must cooperate with the private sector to come up with new and creative ideas that not only lead to scientific discoveries but also address the economic and social challenges of the crisis.

While COVID-19 is spreading in Europe, Accelerate Estonia launched an online hackathon on March 13, 2020, in cooperation with Garage48, to help the country recover from the COVID-19 outbreak and find competitive advantages that Estonia can benefit from post-pandemic. This online hackathon was called "Hack the Crisis" and became the largest of its kind in Estonia. It was opened by President Kersti Kaljulaid and Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Kaimar Karu. The hackathon welcomed ideas that can be prototyped within 48 hours. Participating teams were asked to design, test, and launch innovative ideas that can overcome this global challenge or provide Estonia with a bigger chance to recover post-pandemic. Accelerate Estonia committed to sponsoring five ideas and offering €5,000 for each project to support implementation during the upcoming two months. A concerned fund will then support the promising projects. 

After Accelerate Estonia chose its partners, it launched the hackathon at 4:30 pm. Within 90 minutes, more than 650 participants submitted around 80 ideas. By March 15 (i.e. two days following the initiative's launch), 1,000 individuals and 30 teams had already submitted their projects.

The participants submitted several solutions during the hackathon, including Zelos, a platform that connects society's vulnerable and at-risk groups with volunteers through a call center and an app to offer services and assistance in order to make people feel less isolated and lonely.

Ventit, a solution launched by the initiative, is a ventilator that solves some of the problems caused by the shortage of ventilators for patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome. Another submitted project during the hackathon titled Vanemuine suggested creating a database to manage volunteers in the medical field. Medically qualified individuals will be easily identified by location and respond to any request when needed.

An idea was also proposed during the hackathon to create a workforce platform that connects companies in order to temporarily exchange employees. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, some companies need additional employees while others are unable to provide any job opportunities. Therefore, the platform hopes to address the disparity between supply and demand in the labor market and overcome unemployment and job loss which affect many people.

Finally, the idea to "track coronavirus" was introduced during the hackathon. It was meant to provide real-time data and enable individuals and governments to monitor the current situation. Moreover, it allows citizens to detect risk levels and the possibility of recovering from the virus from home.

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