The world at large and the people who inhabit it are constantly faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges brought about by natural disasters. We are often ill-prepared for them when they impact us directly, or ill-equipped to offer timely relief when they affect others.

It is reported that since 2000, some two-and-a-half billion humans have been been directly affected by some form of natural disaster, and the economic impact of these events since 2003 has been a mind-blowing one-and-a-half-trillion US dollars. In simple terms, this equates to a 240 percent increase in overall impact over the last three decades. By all accounts, these statistics are simply beyond comprehension, and for good reason.

David Clark — through his David Clark Cause project, in conjunction with IBM and various sponsors and supporting organisations such as the United Nations and American Red Cross — has created Call for Code. This new initiative tackles challenges around natural disaster relief head on by tapping into the tens of millions of us who are referred to collectively as “coders” — that is, anyone with an affinity for using code or data to solve problems.

What is Call for Code?

Call for Code is a multi-year initiative designed to tap the talents of developers to apply the latest technologies to solve old problems. This same approach to creating powerful tools and solutions is empowering the new breed of startups, enterprise, and academic ventures to transform the world of business, education, and technology.

IBM has committed thirty million US dollars to the project over the next five years. Drawing on its decades of global leadership and experience in business and technology, IBM is the perfect founding partner for Call for Code as it offers the element necessary to make such an undertaking possible. Just add participants and you have a guaranteed recipe for success.

At the heart of the Call for Code project is a Hack-a-Thon event where coders can focus their skills, experience, and cunning on a non-trivial issue: natural disaster relief. This will take place on a scale never seen before with IBM pushing out the challenge to the world’s twenty-two million developers and data scientists.

How can I get involved?

So glad you asked! To get started and help change the world, all you need to do is register and then start building. These links can help you get you up and running:

We have a substantial library of resources already in place to help you get started, including “zero-to-hero” blogs, tech talks, how-to guides, example code patterns, and much more.

The resources are structured around six key themes:

  1. Building secure, resilient, and traceable supply networks with blockchain
  2. Using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve real-time communications with natural language processing
  3. Understanding, analysing, and predicting health and nutrition needs to improve services with data science
  4. Improving logistics-based traffic and weather activity to reduce the number of people affected
  5. Collecting and analysing device-sensor data to take corrective or preventive action automatically
  6. Using machine learning, deep learning, and visual recognition to improve critical processes

The project is rolling out a series of regional meet-up groups, which are currently scheduled for North America, South America, the United Kingdom, India, Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, Israel, and many more. If there isn’t one in your local area, there is sure to be one soon — or you can establish one yourself once you’ve joined the project.

Are there prizes?

In addition to the amazing experience and the lifetime opportunity of being part of this groundbreaking project, the winning team will also receive:

  • A $200,000 USD cash prize
  • The Call for Code global award at the annual Call for Code awards event
  • Long-term open source project support from the Linux Foundation
  • An opportunity to meet with a venture capitalist and pitch your idea for creating a funded company
  • The opportunity to deploy your solution with an IBM Corporate Services team

And the 2nd and 3rd place winners will each receive:

  • A $25,000 USD cash prize
  • An invitation to the Call for Code awards event
  • Long-term open source project support from the Linux Foundation

So nothing to sneeze at for the top three spots! And even if you don’t end up with a place on the podium, you still have an opportunity to save lives and help others. No matter what you do, it’s likely that your efforts (combined with the other 21,999,999 anticipated participants) can help improve the quality of life for countless individuals and perhaps many generations to come. And, of course, you get to be part of something so much bigger than yourself!

I, for one, am taking part, both as a champion of the project and a contributing coder and human megaphone spreading the message far and wide. I dearly hope that you, your associates, your organisations, friends, and family will take up this amazing challenge, and answer the Call for Code.

Take the first step…

You never know — one day you may benefit in some way from natural disaster relief that results from this global all-hands-on-deck for coders and friends. Here’s your chance to do great things for those facing unimaginable circumstances through no fault of their own as the result of some natural disaster, be it one that’s already taken place or one that’s just over the horizon.

Register now and play your part, and best of luck to you and your team, for as the adage goes, many hands make light work. And with an anticipated 22 million of us behind this amazing project, we will create our own force of nature to be reckoned with.

For more information, please visit the Call for Code website, follow the project on Twitter or Facebook, and join the conversation. And by all means, please share these resources with your own network on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

Dez Blanchfield is a strategic leader in business and digital transformation, with three decades of global experience in Business and the Information Technology & Telecommunications industry, developing strategy, and implementing business initiatives. He works with key industry sectors such as Federal and State Government, Defence, Banking & Finance, Airports & Aviation, Health, Transport, Telecommunications, Energy and Utilities, Mobile Digital Media and Advertising, and Cyber Security.

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