April 11, 2020

Is it possible to save the world without stepping into the world?

by Payal Manan

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India is a country of 1.3 billion people. To put this in perspective, the country has a higher population than the entire continent of Africa. Being the second most populated country in the world, to say that there are marginal health problems, would be an understatement. But India is also known for three things- faith, it’s technological hub and scientific progress. And with these weapons, India chose to contribute to save the world from one of the biggest crisis, COVID-19.

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Inspired by the global movement of #hackthecrisis, the Hack the Crisis-India initiative responded to the outbreak by swiftly executing Hack the Crisis-India rollout on 22nd March and thus joined the global hackathon movement, in less than a day. However, India’s population is thousand times that of EU countries and hence putting together their hackathon format where teams submit solutions that caters to the needs of 1.3 billion people was an applaudable challenge. Another hurdle was that the country has been under lockdown since 24th March so work was highly restricted. But as the famous phrase goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And who tougher than women to take up this mantle to save the world?

According to the World Economic Forum, women comprise of the majority of health and social care workers and are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. They also already do three-times the unpaid care work than men, and taking care of a family with the virus adds to their burden. Yet, it was the courage of an all-women led team to successfully organise ‘Hack the Crisis India’ the largest online hackathon of India to fight COVID-19 with solutions to contain the virus and deal with its aftermath by inviting prototype-able ideas to help deal with the pandemic.

The team, helmed by Ms. Payal Rajpal, Ms. Gayatri Chhabria and Mrs Ritu Chhabria from FICCI FLO Pune Chapter, got the support of various government ministries like the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), Minister of State for Human Resource Development and the government’s popular initiative program-Make in India, MyGov India, to name a few. Pune and Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra are the worst hit in the entire country. This unprecedented situation further encouraged the all-women led team to work round the clock and help give the world a hack from the crisis that could save millions of lives.

Despite the lockdown, Hack the Crisis India received more than 15,000 applications and 2,500 team submissions, which were more than any other country in the world. This overwhelming response was a testament to the fact that even though the citizens were in lockdown, their optimism and grit couldn’t be contained in the four walls of their home. Out of the 2,500 team submissions, 300 teams that best amalgamated science and technology to work on solutions that help fight the crisis and its aftermath, were selected to enter the competition. With India’s remarkable feat, the country has been selected to compete in the upcoming Global Hackathon and will be participating in the three categories- Track lead in crisis-management, Healthcare-Wellness & mental health.

There’s a phrase in India called ‘Nari Shakti’ which roughly translates to ‘the power of women’. And it was the conviction of these incredible women that galvanized the citizens of this 1.3 billion country to come together and contribute to save the world, without stepping into the world.