IBM’s Call for Code To Improve Natural Disaster Preparedness

2016 was a record year for insurable damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and ice storms in Canada with costs surpassing $4.9 billion as indicated by the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And it’s only an upward trend.

Last year was one of the worst years on record globally, affecting hundreds of thousands of people around the world. With these events growing in frequency, crowdsourcing technology is the best bet to develop better ways of evolving our response.

Spearheading the effort, IBM opened registration this week for its Call for Code initiative, calling on developers to apply IBM technologies across Cloud, Data, AI and Blockchain to solve some of the most pressing issues facing societies today. The goal of this ambitious global competition is to unite the world’s developers around a common cause each year.

Now, 2018 is focusing on the development of innovative solutions that reduce human suffering and the number of people affected by natural disasters.

The impact of technology on natural disasters

Technological advancement has already had a large impact on natural disaster response. Social media has played a crucial role in the connectedness of survivors and emergency responders before, during and after a natural disaster. It allows for the easy dissemination of real-time information, opening up a new line of communication, contributing to quicker, more efficient allocation of resources.

Usage of the Canadian Red Cross social media page went up 6,000 per cent overnight during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, according to Sara Falconer, the director of digital communications.

There’s a great opportunity for tech to play a larger role in emergency management, aiding in better preparation and response in the event that a natural disaster threatens to strike.

Call for Code aims to do just that, inviting developers to create new applications aimed at reducing vulnerability by mitigating disaster risk over the long run—using technologies to anticipate threats, to improve precautionary short term and long term measures, help respond to medical needs during disaster and improve the overall resiliency of communities while rebuilding in the wake of major disruptions.

Looking for inspiration? A developer might create an application that alerts pharmacies to increase their stock of antibiotics, insulin, bottled water and vaccines based on predicting weather-related disruptions. Perhaps, visual recognition can be used to assess the impact of a seismic event or speed claims processing to reduce the time required for recovery and reconstruction. Where existing tech and social platforms are already changing the landscape, this competition gives developers the chance to completely transform relief response as it stands.

The opportunities are endless but the ideas and the code are up to you.

Call for Code competition

IBM is the founding member of the Call for Code Global Initiative, which was created by David Clark, a renowned leader in cause-related initiatives. IBM will be investing $30 million over the next five years to ensure developers have access to tools, technologies, free code and training to submit successful applications that can be scaled and deployed across the world.

The winning team will receive a financial reward, have access to long-term support through IBM’s partnership with Linux Foundation and the opportunity to pitch their idea to leading venture capitalists.

In addition, the goal is to quickly transition the winning solutions from the development lab to the real world. The winning team will have the chance to join IBM Corporate Service Corps, which sends experts from IBM to underserved communities around the world to apply technologies to local issues, to launch their solutions and benefit communities in need.

Through the Call for Code, IBM and David Clark Cause are supporting the UN Human Rights Office’s approach to humanitarian action, which focuses on securing the participation of affected groups in preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

How to join Call for Code

• Developers can register today at as individuals.
• IBM-provided resources such as training can be accessed at
• Applications can be submitted, as part of a team of up to five members, between June 18 and August 31, 2018.
• Thirty semi-finalists will be selected in September. A prominent jury including some of the most iconic technologists in the world will narrow it down to three finalists.
• The winner will be announced in October 2018 during a live-streamed concert and award event coordinated by the David Clark Cause.
• Call for Code participants will use IBM Cloud, Data, Watson, Blockchain and IoT technologies, along with open source IBM Code Patterns – curated reusable packages of documentation, architecture diagrams, process flows and access to the underlying code on GitHub – to innovate and build their submissions.

Feeling excited yet?! Join me and my fellow developers as we tackle some of Canada’s and the World’s most pressing problems. Register for Call for Code for a chance to win a prize and make an impact on the world. Or get inspiration from our freely available assets at IBM Code to dive into a new technology you’ve been eager to learn about.

Steve Martinelli is a Development Manager at IBM.