Myplanet Focuses Efforts on Digital Contact Tracing
To aid in the response to Covid-19, we’re backing fundraising, research, and development that supports open-source digital contact tracing.
By now you’ve heard about Digital Contact Tracing and the need for a widespread initiative in North America. We can’t safely resume normal operations or reopen our cities or move about with relative freedom without it.
Based on the experience of countries which have most successfully contained the outbreak, it’s clear a significant upgrade is required to the tools public health authorities can use for understanding and tracking the spread of the virus. That’s where digital contact tracing comes in.
Contact tracing is an approach to public health and disease containment that has been used for every major outbreak in the last 50 years, though historically it has been a very labour intensive process that poses a great deal of risk to those doing the significant manual work. Digital contact tracing (DCT) uses the same conceptual approach, only it applies it via personal electronic devices. It’s a proven and highly effective means to help track the potential spread of infection from person to person.
How is Myplanet helping with DCT efforts?
We’re in a unique moment. Businesses all over the world are recalibrating operations to help meet the needs of front-line efforts to combat Covid-19. We’ve seen organizations — especially in the manufacturing sector — respond quickly, retooling their factories to produce sorely needed goods during this crisis. Apparel companies like Harry Rosen and New Balance switched to making masks instead of collared shirts and sneakers, and Ford and GE are combining their resources to make ventilators instead of cars and refrigerators.
At Myplanet, we have the opportunity to apply our design and development expertise to the current global need. Moreover, as an employee-owned B Corp we see it as a responsibility. Being a B Corp means we’ve made a commitment to better business practices, to doing what we can as an organization to make a positive difference through our work. We don’t take that commitment lightly, and that’s why we’re taking the skills we do have — open-source software development and user experience design — and using them where they’re needed most.
We believe in the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” and we have always viewed open knowledge sharing as a way to achieve that, advancing everyone together and not just the select few with the luck or resources to make it happen. There has never been a more important time for the principles of open-source to be applied at scale.
Myplanet has committed to supporting open-source projects that can help support digital contact tracing. A crucial element of making DCT a success will be high quality open-source development that helps connect the right information to the right people — health agencies and support networks chief among them.
We’re not in a position to judge what public health authorities need, but we are experts in open-source development, and we believe strongly in the importance of facilitating the discussions around digital contact tracing and sharing that information. That’s why Myplanet CEO Jason Cottrell has started a GoFundMe to secure funding for a bounty program for open-source development of contact tracing initiatives. With an ambitious goal of $250,000USD, we’re doing everything we can to spread the word and to support the skilled programmers needed for this crucial work.
The bounty program will fund hundreds of independent developers as they contribute their time and code skills to DCT initiatives. All of the money raised will go directly to paying the people doing the work: skilled developers working hard to create a meaningful solution for a serious public health need. Myplanet won’t personally know or choose the developers doing the work, but we’re proud to help fund their efforts.
As a software studio, we have always been focused on creating better digital experiences for enterprise organizations. With clients and customers in healthcare and related industries, we believe we have a role to play in helping stem the growth of the pandemic, in helping businesses recover, and in helping them prepare for future concerns.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a number of pieces outlining learnings, best practices, and hopefully even a few solutions from our Contact Tracing Lab. The team has already researched and prototyped solutions for things like spacing notification systems, contact tracing within private organizations, and how to protect data privacy while supporting public health. They’re looking at how best to direct both public and private contact tracing efforts for organizations of all types that will rely on these efforts to get back to operating as close to normally as possible.
We don’t believe anyone should own the knowledge that enables DCT. We also know that we can’t have the impact that a dedicated community can have. By spreading information and knowledge to others working across digital contact tracing initiatives, we’ll be better able to get these essential tools into the hands of health care experts sooner and at the highest quality possible.
Supporting Startups through our Ventures Fund
We’re working closely with our clients to help them figure out how they can safely return to operations, and as part of that we’ve redirected funds within our Ventures arm to fund entrepreneurs who are using technology to research and implement ways to make spaces safer through digital contact tracing and associated technology solutions.
Our Ventures arm specializes in companies which are between their Seed and Series A rounds of funding and who need support for a product refresh, new functions to support enterprise customers, or a pivot to address a new market. With so much changing in the world, figuring out a path forward for these organizations is more important than ever, and our Ventures team is prepping to tackle the new challenges brought by Covid-19 alongside the startups they work with.
Our Ventures team is also actively thinking about what the future looks like beyond Covid-19, beyond social distancing, beyond this moment of change. What can we do to better prepare ourselves and our workplaces for future shifts? How can we adapt our current systems to meet not only the current concerns, but to be more flexible in meeting future concerns whatever they may be?
Our long term objective with all three of these efforts is to support public health, health systems, and eventually the consortia of the hardest hit industries as they harness and harmonize digital contact tracing efforts.
Donate now to support open-source development for digital contact tracing at the GoFundMe here: Improve Covid-19 Digital Contact Tracing