There are no major events anymore, all of them fell victim to the Corona crisis. Actually. The Federal Government organized one on the weekend – however, on the Internet, and not despite, but because of the Corona crisis. 42,000 people, a well-filled football stadium, had registered for the “#WirvsVirus” hackathon, which the Federal Government organized together with a number of digital initiatives and Chancellor Minister Helge Braun as patron. A hackathon is a design and programming competition in which participants try to solve tasks within a few days. According to Braun, it was the largest hackathon in history.
In this case, the participants themselves and the Federal Government submitted problems that arise from the Corona crisis and should be developed for the solutions. The organizers identified the most promising suggestions and sorted them into categories. The topics were diverse: the distribution of aids, neighborhood support, the recording and transmission of new cases of infection, the mental health of people in crisis or the digitalization of public administration.
Forced to digitize
The hackathon is a good example of how the country and probably above all the authorities are forced to digitize by the Covid19 crisis and make progress in a short time that would otherwise have taken them months or years. Companies discover the home office, schools and universities have moved to the Internet. The hackathon was also set up in a few days. The idea came from Estonia, where a first hackathon took place last weekend, on which concepts against the virus crisis were developed and which attracted international attention. “Tech4Germany”, an innovation task force of the federal government, and the Digital, an advisory body for the government, proposed to the chancellery to do the same in Germany.
The organizers’ expectations were far exceeded. “The number of visits to the homepage is actually gigantic,” Minister Braun told an ARD blog about the intermediate status of 12,000 registrations. The organizers were still struggling with the technology on Friday evening. The official start was at 6:30 p.m. However, participants reported that the collaboration platform Slack was not running smoothly. At 6:00 p.m., a public call for help from Slack boss Stewart Butterfield came from the hackathon’s Twitter account: “We have to send an email with the invitation link to 42,000 people.” The systems would only allow emails to 2000 people. Butterfield wrote ten minutes later: “Adding 40,000 people at the same time looks like a bad idea to me” and sent a smiley face after. The situation was resolved three hours later. The Slack employees had helped a lot, it said from the hackathon Twitter account. The whole organization is more reminiscent of a start-up. According to the organizer, 17 people, including volunteers, were on the core organizing team.`
The deadline for the projects was on Sunday evening. A jury makes the decision on which projects win and receive support during the week. There is also a public vote. It has not yet been clarified what the funding should look like: Until the announcement “it will be clear what exactly a subsequent Virus support program will look like”, said a message to the participants on Saturday evening. Patron Braun thanked the participants for the exuberant “YouTube closing party” and said: “Many have said they have never worked for the government. I hope that was not a traumatic experience.”