IBM Leads ‘Call for Code’ to Use Cloud, AI for Natural Disaster Relief

Call for Code invites developers to create new applications to help communities and people better prepare for natural disasters.

Disaster recovery

IBM, the United Nations, the Red Cross and a group of other organizations are joining forces to help the IT world respond faster and more efficiently to natural disasters. 

The newly formed coalition on May 24 launched a new project, the Call for Code Global Initiative, which IBM described as the largest and most ambitious effort to bring startup, academic and enterprise developers together to solve one of the most difficult issues of our time: preventing, responding to and recovering from natural disasters.

Speaking at a keynote address at the VivaTech Conference in Paris, IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty committed a full measure of IBM technology and $30 million over a five-year period to the initiative. Ideally, the goal is to unite the world’s developers and use data and AI, blockchain, cloud and IoT technologies to solve social challenges.

Through Call for Code, IBM and David Clark Cause are joining forces with the United Nations Human Rights Office and its human rights-based approach to humanitarian action, which focuses on securing the participation of affected groups in preparedness, response and recovery efforts and bringing attention to the most excluded and marginalized populations.

The Idea: Create New Apps That Will Prepare People Ahead of Time

Call for Code invites developers to create new applications to help communities and people better prepare for natural disasters. For example, developers may create an app that uses weather data and supply chain information to alert pharmacies to increase supplies of medicine, bottled water and other items based on predicted weather-related disruption. It also could be an app that predicts when and where the disaster will be most severe, so emergency crews can be dispatched ahead of time in proper numbers to treat those in need.

IBM’s investment over five years will fund access to developer tools, technologies, free code and training with experts. The winning app-building team will receive a financial prize, yet, perhaps more rewarding, they will have access to long-term support to help move their idea from prototype to real-world application. This includes ongoing developer support through IBM’s partnership with the Linux Foundation.

“Technology can be a powerful force to advance human rights and build more equitable societies,” Laurent Sauveur, head of external relations of the United Nations Human Rights Office, said in a media advisory.

“Call for Code is an excellent opportunity to explore how technology can play a role in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable populations and those who are at risk of having their human rights violated in the context of a humanitarian crisis.”

Rewards for Teams That Participate

Call for Code also integrates the American Red Cross’ focus on new ways to bring support to disaster victims–especially important with 2017 ranked as one of the worst years on record for catastrophic events, including fires, floods, earthquakes and storms.

In addition to development support, the winning team can join one of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) teams to apply their idea to a community in need. IBM CSC teams are multi-disciplinary IBM experts who spend four to six weeks in underserved communities around the world to apply technology to local issues and opportunities.

To raise awareness and interest in Call for Code, IBM is coordinating interactive educational events, hackathons and community support for developers around the world in more than 50 cities, including Amsterdam, Bengaluru, Berlin, Delhi, Dubai, London, New York, San Francisco, Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv.

How to Join the Call for Code

  • Developers can register now at Callforcode.org.
  • Projects can be submitted by individuals, or teams of up to five people, between June 18, 2018 and Aug. 31, 2018.
  • Thirty semi-finalists will be selected in September. A prominent jury, including some of the most iconic technologists in the world, will choose the winning solution from three finalists.
  • The winner will be announced in October 2018 during a live-streamed concert and award event coordinated by David Clark Cause.

Additional details, a full schedule of in-person and virtual events, and training and enablement for Call for Code are available here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...