“Every developer who is able should actively volunteer their skills to have a positive impact during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Quinn Slack, co-founder and CEO of Sourcegraph, a code analysis tool. “If you have a great idea to help your community, go build it. Otherwise, support the people who are contributing tools to help provide support members of their community. There are a variety of different kinds of apps that developers can help to address the current crises.”
There are numerous developer volunteer opportunities to pursue during this pandemic. High school students, through the Hack Club, are also involved in developer volunteer opportunities.
Slack is particularly excited about what these students are doing all around the world. Some of the tools they’re building to help include:
- A web app and Google Classroom tool for teachers to administer worksheets remotely;
- A database to monitor food and household supplies;
- In-game video calling for Minecraft;
- A slideshow for children explaining exponential growth through a fable; and
- Interactive website visualization of the COVID-19 pandemic by country.
Make it easier to give
Other developer volunteer opportunities looking at how developers can use their experience in marketing psychology and application development to help improve the work of various organizations that have the biggest impact. For example, Givemomentum.com just launched Cancelcorona.org to help organize donation efforts to various organizations that provide aid.
Nick Fitz, CEO of Givemomentum.com, formed the company while doing research with Dan Ariely at Duke’s Center for Advanced Hindsight. The lab focused on the use of behavioral science for social impact, and how it helps people set up their environment to make better decisions and make the world a better place. The research discovered that people want to donate two and a half times what they currently give, but don’t because of barriers such as not knowing where to give, how or what their donations achieve, Fitz said.
Momentum started as a side project on the weekends. As the pandemic grew, the team shifted its efforts to focus on helping charitable organizations during COVID-19.
Eric Ries and Manisha Snoyer realized that 55 million U.S. children became involuntary homeschoolers, and many of these students’ parents were teaching for the first time. As schools continued to shut down, Ries and Snoyer saw more and more people sharing ad hoc resources and knew a centralized resolution was necessary.
The duo used Twilio to spin up a contact center in two days with a front-end hotline to help parents and students in need of virtual education resources. The hotline, which is powered by Twilio’s SMS and Voice APIs, is staffed by educational specialists who have experience teaching from home. The hotline has brought together over 85 volunteers including education experts, content writers, researchers, developers, designers, secular homeschooling families, investors and several tech companies to help respond to the growing need.
Other ideas to consider
There are plenty of developer volunteer opportunities, said Mark Herschberg, an instructor at MIT and CTO at Averon, a security company. For example, some developer volunteer opportunities include:
- Teacher coordination: A system to let educators coordinate and cross share tools in a virtual learning environment. If some teacher created a lesson for 30, they can create a lesson for 3,000. The other 99 teachers can then spend time with 1-on-1 tutorials to help struggling students.
- Pen pal system: Isolation will hit people. Unfortunately, some people don’t have good social systems. It’s also an opportunity for people to meet others outside their geography. Online support groups and pen pals can help people feel connected and meet others.
- Act local: Create a system that uses emergent medical data that lets people search for local places that need help during a crisis. You put a zip code and radius into the system, and it returns a list of local groups that need help, from blood donation centers to food pantries to animal shelters.
- Give an hour, take an hour: Individuals need help. For example, elderly populations may need people to buy them food or parents who still need to go work need childcare. People are doing this ad hoc grass roots. A customizable system that posts and finds help for different neighborhoods could be useful.
- Video triage: NYC hospitals could be overwhelmed soon, but Wyoming hospitals may not have a problem for a while. A tele-triage service program could handle cases remotely via video. A further refinement could involve the creation of a more sophisticated system with multiple cameras that allow a doctor to remotely examine a patient on a gurney from multiple angles and zoom in on visible symptoms. Other improvements might include the ability to guide frontline nurses to do physical movement under a doctor’s supervision. This kind of project might have to involve legal teams as well to sort out the issues of doctor authorization from other states to treat patients in overwhelmed cities.