AskCo19: Spreading Information Faster than the Virus
TLDR: Global Skills Hub joined Nth Opinion to develop AskCo19 — an open-source communication tool for verified COVID-19 information.
By: Adina Silver
The past few weeks have been marked with uncertainty and change, as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us professionally and personally. As a company, our plan to navigate the crisis was motivated by our vision of uniting people to solve life’s greatest challenges. In addition to ensuring we supported the GSH team and developers, we reached out to our community to support anyone looking to provide solutions in response to COVID-19. We pledged 10,000 in-kind hours to COVID-19 response efforts, as part of the Project K(IN)D #1BInKind challenge.
This pledge was partly inspired by the innovative work of two Canadian physicians, Dr. Ray and Roger Ng, who put out a call for developers and physicians to join their efforts in building a decentralized platform to share COVID-19 information. What started as a hackathon grew into a Slack community with over 200 members, including GSH developers offering to contribute their skills and talent in-kind. The result: AskCo19.com
WHAT IS ASKCO19?
AskCo19 is an open-source online platform developed by Nth Opinion, and supported by Slack, Unbounce, Trello, Figma, Unito, Media Launch, Atomic Motion, Weglot, SingularityNET, Ocean Protocol, and Global Skills Hub. This innovative communication tool allows for real-time COVID-19 information from verified healthcare practitioners and professionals. Public questions can be asked and answered by physicians across the world, making this a completely borderless information solution. Physicians and other healthcare professionals can also use this platform to share knowledge and information they have gained working on the front lines with each other. This collaborative platform is completely free to use, simple, and all the information is from verified healthcare professionals.
Drs. Ray and Dr. Roger Ng, the founders of AskCo19, identified that “healthcare has been lagging behind in communications technology and innovative solutions to help patients access healthcare information to its full potential”. Previously, the doctors had been working on an AI Physician platform, but adapted when COVID-19 spread across China to create AskCo19.
“AskCo19 is the hope and belief that we are a technological species capable of developing a solution that can help frontline physicians leverage and share valuable experiences with each other and save lives across the world by letting physicians move faster than research.” — Dr. Ray Ng and Dr. Roger Ng, creators of AskCo19
GSH DEVELOPERS STEPPING UP TO SAVE THE WORLD:
As a company, we have been reminding our team and developer community that when things return to a new normal we will be asked what role we played during the pandemic. GSH developers stepped up and helped to create a borderless technology solution, offering their time and resources in-kind. As Dr. Ray and Roger describe, the developer community was “inspirational in the speed of implementation.” Not only did they prove to the world that they are incredible people, they showed their commitment to the Canadian community.
We asked GSH developers why they decided to help:
“Things are difficult in the world right now, most people feel powerless, they wish they could do something. I am just glad to be able to do something, however small” — Adetunji Oyebanji, GSH Software Developer
“I got involved with AskCo19 because I saw this as a great opportunity to give back, to help the frontline workers, to help those desperately in need of answers that could be life changing decisions in the fight against COVID-19 or any future global pandemic. I joined because I see this as a solution that will not only help me and my family, but a solution to help the world at large. So each time, I jump onto Slack and join the team, I remember why I am doing this, and the awesome vibrant team we have makes it exciting to do what we do best. I see this as my God-given the duty to help others. It is only right and fitting to do so.” — Nathaniel Nation, GSH developer
“I have never had an experience of contributing to an open-source project but I decided that I need such an experience. That is why when I saw Yousuf Khatib announce in the GSH community chat that an open source project that aims to inform people about COVID-19 needs developers with experience that I have (React and Redux), I understood that it was that very project I needed. Honestly, I didn’t feel that I did enough for the project. Nevertheless I like being part of something big and important, I do think that this is a great idea to make such a project: delivering info from experts to people all over the world — that’s a really brilliant idea.” — Anastasiia Shapovalova, GSH FE developer
UNITED AGAINST COVID-19:
Beyond the in-kind contributions of GSH developers, there have been many individuals and companies who have been instrumental in the development of AskCo19. When we needed more data scientists, we reached out to Edouard Harris at SharpestMinds who runs a data scientist mentorship network. Through previous experience, we knew the quality of work and strong community that SharpestMinds could bring. When we needed translation software to ensure our app was truly borderless, we reached out to Weglot, who gave free access to their platform. When our community member, Nathaniel, needed a tool to work collaboratively, we reached out to Even LePage at Unito. They provided free access to Unito, which allowed for improved real-time collaboration. When we needed a marketing expert, we reached out to Sharif Virani at Atomic Motion, who took on the role of PR lead for Nth Opinion.
We asked these companies why they decided to help:
“The best result for an initiative like this is when everyone aggregates their efforts together, so we (SharpestMinds) promoted HACKING COVID to our internal Slack that is full of data scientists. One of the most compelling things about it was that it contained doctors. We had a community of engineers, and to engineers, not knowing what to build is usually the biggest constraint. On the other hand, doctors know exactly what to build: it’s whatever they need next. Everyone on the team seems incredibly enthusiastic and it’s been amazing to see a community of this size and sophistication self-organize so quickly.” — Edouard Harris, CEO and co-founder, SharpestMinds.
“Since the COVID-19 situation began, we’ve been looking for ways to support those affected. We started by making onboardings free to all customers — to help them get set up and working from home. We’ve also created remote work guides and resources to help people manage the transition. But when Global Skills Hub reached out to us asking for a Unito account to support your incredible Askco19 initiative, we jumped at the chance to support relief efforts in such a direct way. As the COVID-19 situation evolves so quickly, providing physicians on the front lines a platform that they can use to disseminate reliable information to the public seems incredibly important. We’re so happy to have even a small part to play in this project. It was a pleasure to work with such a passionate group of individuals on this important initiative.” — Evan LePage, Senior Content Manager, Unito
“The COVID-19 crisis is a global and first-of-its-kind crisis. Everyone is impacted and Weglot is too. We naturally decided to help as much as we could. We feel it’s important to be able to find key information in any language at this critical time that’s why we decided to offer Weglot for free to any website related to providing information about COVID-19. It’s not much but if it can help a little bit, we would be more than happy.” — Eugène Ernoult, CMO, Weglot
“I joined because I have family members and friends in the medical community, and I felt it necessary to help. Working in tech and marketing, I felt that I could do something, particularly with respect to communications. Working with the other volunteers, it was incredible to see two groups, technology and medicine, come together. Regardless of our own personal agendas, we all came together, united, to focus on saving lives. The main message that we were trying to get out there is that if you consider yourself a leader, this is your opportunity to rise to the challenge. It was almost overwhelming with how many people got involved. This crisis has offered an opportunity to improve our healthcare system through technology. It has shown us the potential for us to embrace international talent and workers. If they have a willingness to make a difference, with the right attitude and the proper knowledge, we should allow them to help in some capacity. For example, using a tool like AskCo19. There are other aspects of healthcare that they can help with, that will make our system more efficient.” — Sharif Virani, Vice President of Marketing, Atomic Motion
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
AskCo19 is a community-driven open source platform. To maximize the impact of this incredible tool, we need both healthcare practitioners/professionals and the general public to participate.
- If you are a healthcare practitioner or professional sign up to join the AskCo19 community
- If you need answers to COVID-19 related questions, ask a doctor from the AskCo19 community
“Real-time information sharing among physicians in these unprecedented times has been immensely valuable in stopping the spread of the virus. Using technology and the speed of code to combat the pandemic is evident all around us today and we must encourage the continued advancement of such initiatives. The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has placed front and center the fragility of our healthcare systems globally. The AskCo19 community rallied developers, doctors, and translators working truly without borders to fight the pandemic alongside other frontline healthcare workers. The destruction caused in the wake of COVID-19 should not be for nothing — greater media and public awareness that the new abnormal will require a change in the way we think about healthcare as we rebuild our communities and cities from the ground up. We need to ask the questions: What is it going to be like when the doors start to open up again? What do we want it to look like? We have this amazing reset that is horrific in so many ways and an opportunity in others — we have to figure it out. A lot of changes are going to happen. I don’t know exactly what it is going to look like, but we have to have a vision for the future and move towards it.” Dr. Ray Ng and Dr. Roger Ng, founders of AskCo19
Together, as a united community with a shared goal, we have the potential to make a tremendous impact. We have seen this firsthand with the development of AskCo19, which united developers, physicians, and other incredible organizations around the world. The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for all of us to step up and play our role in contributing to the betterment of society. Even if our contribution is seemingly small it is significant. Collectively, we have the power to truly make a difference, inspire, and innovate in these unprecedented times.
Play your part in making information spread faster than the virus.
LinkedIn: Yousuf Khatib