At the end of March, a coalition of grassroots UK tech initiatives came together to coordinate the key groups of tech industry people supporting the UK’s response to the coronavirus. The Code4Covid.org initiative came out of a milieu of other projects such as Covidmutualaid.org and Covid Tech Support, but it was the CoronavirusTechHandbook (CTH), an initiative by political technology college Newspeak House which pioneered the whole movement and quickly become a global resource and community in its own right.
Since its launch, CTH has become arguably the world’s largest open-source library of Coronavirus tools and data. It’s now launched a Crowdfunder campaign to raise an initial, modest, target of £27,000 ($33,500) to help keep connecting experts and thus helping to save lives across the world.
The Handbook has created a free online library, not unlike Wikipedia, where technologists, doctors and other specialists can find projects, share best practices, and communicate. This prevents them from wasting time working on the same problems associated with the pandemic, or at least seeing how others have solved them before attempting anything new.
The CTH is already at over five hundred pages, including everything from community finance tools to ventilator designs and has now been viewed over 500,000 times in the UK and abroad.
The launch of the Handbook has enabled UK doctors to advise their peers in Ecuador on developing safe personal protective equipment; mutual aid groups in the UK to sharing ways of organizing volunteers and their finances; and the exchange of models, data and infographics charting the progress in stopping the virus.
While the project was granted £50,000 in seed funding from Nesta, this will only allow it to run until July, so additional funds are needed to ensure the Handbook can continue its work collating lifesaving information from hundreds of experts around the world on a daily basis.
Nathan Young, from Newspeak House, whose initiative this project was, said: “Fighting coronavirus is a problem for science and politics. But it’s also one of coordination. Experts all over the world are working hard, but they don’t know what each other are working on. From doctors to ventilator manufacturers to city councilors, everyone needs to share knowledge and find solutions faster.”
Interestingly, if it weren’t for the debacle that was Brexit, the CTH would not have existed, as the learnings from a very similar project, the Election Tech Handbook, fed directly into how the CTH was set up and run.