COVID-19 might still be classed by many people as a black swan event, but it has raised fundamental questions as to how the physical world reacts to an ever-evolving situation and, importantly, the best ways to get vaccine shots in people’s arms.
What has been clear since day one is that the spread of the disease has not been limited to countries with inadequate healthcare systems, more that COVID-19 is happy to affect rich and poor alike. And while cases have slowed, the vaccine rollout itself has been not only unevenly distributed, but also prone to delays in administering the number of doses needed to “bend the curve.”
As of 19th July 2021, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been around 3.4 billion doses administered. With more than 187 million confirmed cases and over four million deaths from COVID-19 reported to WHO, the fight is a long way from being over and the race is on to get as many people fully protected against the disease in the shortest time possible.
Sadly, that is where the distribution side has been found lacking, with a recent study by Bloomberg showing that most countries are nowhere near the level of vaccinations needed for herd immunity. A full list of current global distribution and vaccine rates can be found here.
Clearly, something needs to change (and fast), but the question we asked ourselves was how digital solutions can be brought into the mix to solve both the vaccine rollout roadblocks and the global distribution rates.
Global problem, digital solution
It is against this background that Apexon’s latest hackathon – Hack2Vax – was conceived and organized. Running over 36 hours from 8PM PST on July 9th until its conclusion on July 11th, the aim of the event was to bring teams of digital engineers and coders together to fashion a digital solution to the pain points that the rollout has flagged up.
Leveraging our Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnership, teams would have to design, build, and present their cloud-based solution to a panel of judges, with the minimum requirement being that they could demonstrate a Proof of Concept (PoC) at the end of the allocated time. Teams were allowed to build any applications (including native or mobile applications) or any that communicated with hardware, I/O or controlled devices. In addition, they had to use the AWS Cloud Services account provided.
Each registered team could have up to five participants, with the winning team getting a maximum of $2,500. Second and third place teams were awarded $1,500and $1,000, respectively. As a bonus, the successful team would be lauded by its peers and achieve eternal Apexon/AWS glory.
And the winner is …
A sizable number of teams registered, with 20 selected to take part in the actual event. With the vaccine rollout the focus, we were looking for innovative and scalable digital solutions that could be a real-world fix to an established problem.
Competition was fierce, but the team that walked away with the cash, fame and glory is …
Based in India (Ahmedabad and Pune), this five-person team – Jay R. Patel (Team Lead), Amit Shah, Sanjay Sarpartre, Ashish Kamani and Pankaj Patel used their combined experience and ability to design a solution which, according to their abstract, would be “easy to use, has coverage across all quarters of society, is automated, and uses predictive and distributive analysis to improve the supply chain.”
Citing recent Ministry of Health data that showed considerable regional wastage in not only vaccine rollout but also the availability of jabs themselves, the team wanted to highlight how this could be alleviated with a digitally engineered platform.
To achieve this, the team would integrate interactive voice response (IVR), notifications, chatbot, AI/ML, a frontend portal and database. Additionally, the solution would incentivize the end user to be part of the part of the vaccination process and employ social media solutions to promote the rollout itself.
In the opinion of the judges, the winning solution had a beautiful simplicity, with end users either ringing or texting a toll-free number to supply basic health information. Once in the system, the platform would automatically search for vaccination slots using priority-driven mechanisms – frontline workers would be prioritized, for example, as would age and health history – and process improvisations that incorporated predictive analysis – actual use of vaccine shots and doses, say.
According to Jay Patel, the initial focus of Outliers’ digital solution was to use the power of AWS cloud services to fix identified choke points in both the supply chain and rollout management. This would mean, he said, providing not only multiple points for registration but also optimization of available resources.
“We wanted to solve the defined problems in terms of vaccination rollout by using a fully automated and Artificial Intelligence-based solution,” Patel said. “To achieve this, we needed to keep our eye on major focus areas such as the acceleration of actual vaccination, better supply management, predictive analysis, priority-based scheduling and auto-scheduling. It also needed to be platform agnostic and open to digital promotion.”
We would also like to congratulate Noluthando Mdanda (Team Every Care) and our colleagues at Apexon (Team Covid Coders) for their respective second and third place finishes.
Both teams presented solutions that scored highly. In Noluthando’s case, the Seattle University student’s chatbot solution identified a very real problem by focusing on the tech-based reasons why developing countries are struggling to both vaccinate their populations and distribute the information that people need to get shots.
In addition, the judges felt Team Data Poltergeist’s real-time vaccination status PoC deserved an honorable mention, but the high standard of participation meant that the judging phase was filled with tough choices.
Commenting on the quality of work presented during Hack2Vax, Deven Samant (Global Practice Head and hackathon leader) said:
“We are all aware that we live in a global village, connected by technology and powered by innovative thinking. The teams that took part in Hack2Vax showed us that they were able to see both the bigger picture and apply their considerable digital experience to finding a solution to a problem that has already proven to be a stumbling block. Digital engineers are the bedrock of the connected society, and this hackathon showed us why.”
A tip of the hat to you all, you did great work in a very short space of time.
To find out more about how Apexon can solve the toughest digital challenges, contact us today. Alternatively, fill out the form below and we will make certain that your details go to the right team.