Authors

Inspiration

With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, having to see people suffer physically, mentally, and financially involving a sudden change in everyone's daily lives due to the lockdown, it is only fair to say that we, as a team, wanted to bring a positive change during this tragic period. There are various problems being faced by people around us especially the more vulnerable ones who are affected the most during the current outbreak. The major inspiration behind this app came from seeing the medical professionals working extensive hours, risking their lives to treat the infected as well as seeing our local community suffer due to shortage of supplies and many local businesses facing huge losses, the motivation among our youth has been applauding and the majority wants to involve in providing some form of assistance to their local community. A major example of this was seen as a result of the NHS opportunity to volunteer where 450,000 people signed up in less than 24 hours. Us, a group of 3rd-year Computer Science students at Lancaster University wanted to use our technical expertise in providing a digital solution during this quarantine period and get communities to involve and interact online to request or provide support depending on their state and availability.

What it does

A highly scalable and user friendly platform that connects people requiring support with people able to offer support. We have thought of an Uber-like concept where the user can find all the opportunities around their location to volunteer for, whether it is an individual/vulnerable person wanting any help (e.g. local door-to-door deliveries for elderly people, calls for wellbeing etc.) or an organisation or local council/community requiring volunteers (e.g. Food Bank donations, money, clothing and even volunteers with specific skills needed like IT for helping in online Education). The incentive to volunteer involves being able to contribute and help directly with the on-going global pandemic and we will provide the statistics to show them how much of a positive impact they are making and contributing towards this situation. Our discussions forum allows global communities of volunteers to come together and discuss what adoptions and what improvements are being made in their respective countries so we can help improve the situation altogether, as a community.

Problems we are tackling

  • Senior or elderly people are unable to collect their food shopping/deliveries easily from the store.
  • Organisations like food banks, local councils and communities are lacking donations and people with the relevant skills to volunteer.
  • There are not enough volunteers across the world to help every person that is being affected or is vulnerable by the virus in some way.

Our solution

  • Deliver support (eg. grocery/medication) for people who can't access basic needs easily
  • Build a local community finder tool for people to find local businesses / how they can provide local support to their  local communities.
  • Connect vulnerable/affected people in the community with volunteers or carers via an automated check-in service and offer support in many other ways.

How we built it

Firstly, we decided to go through our initial thoughts as a team and discuss what potential features could be best for the app on a user perspective and what is currently lacking to help minimize the effect of this global pandemic. Below you can see some of our key initial points for brainstorming:

Volunteering platform - (${%NAME%}) - include chatbot (ask how much stock left)

  • Uber-like UI and concept
  • Camera Validation
  • Rewards System (Medal, Points, purchases) - gamification
  • Statistics based on how much you have helped the community and shareable certificate for Linkedin/CV
  • Interface in a map (optional)
  • News sections (up to date news report) and data about the virus spread
  • Volunteer on things like calling for assistance/wellbeing, local deliveries for elderlies, donations food bank/money,
  • Accept donations
  • Discussions forum for volunteers to chat/share ideas
  • Data analytics on how many volunteers required, how much help is needed in region and who can qualify to help best

We then proceeded to research further into these initial thoughts and speak to some of the local council and local communities that needed volunteers in our respective locations (London, Manchester and Lancaster). We got a positive response back from them saying how useful something like our app would be for each local community as they were looking for many volunteers in different areas and also got some good feedback. From our research, we identified there is a lack of donations and volunteers in some regional areas and there is a clear demand for volunteers at this moment. From recent statistics provided by the BBC, “405,000 NHS volunteers signed up in 24 hours, suggesting that there is a clear demand that people want to volunteer and support the NHS during this health crisis.” We built some mock-ups and wireframes using Balsamiq and then decided to experiment with prototyping using BuilderX, which is a useful tool to build the UI designs and then export them as a React-native project.

For our front-end we incorporated the react-native mobile development framework to turn our vision into a reality. This section uses a base main screen then using our navigation system we can slide into the other screens based on what the user needs. For the implementation of maps we made use of google maps as this is notoriously known for the rich data streams it provides.  We believe in accuracy, especially during this pandemic so implementing the maps with a more reliable platform is key.

To accompany google maps we also adopted geolocation to provide users with their current location (with permission of course). Using this we can accurately pinpoint the location of the user to allow volunteers to view where the PIN(Person In Need) is located, thus allowing us to better connect the community and help volunteers to work more efficiently.

To provide our users with the most up to date news during this pandemic we decided to use NewsApi to pull from the most popular news sources with the keyword “Coronavirus” and organised them from newest to oldest to keep the relevant up to date news. The news sources are also hyperlinked to send intrigued readers to the appropriate destination.

We decided to use AWS for our back-end. We made use of lambda functions, which was a new concept for most of us, but decided to take this opportunity to learn further and enhance our skills. Furthermore, we used DynamoDB as our database so we can have everything hosted within AWS and we used the API Gateway to deploy our API with a custom domain. The reason why we decided to choose AWS was because it was recommended by the people running the Hackathon and there was also an aws-support channel in Slack to help us out if we ran into any doubts or questions. Additionally, we saw this as an opportunity to learn something new which will definitely help us in our future careers.

Challenges we ran into

The participation in this hackathon was decided on Tuesday 24 March, the challenges involved the timeframe and gathering a team of aspiring software developers who want to make a change. The team consists of final year Computer Science students out of whom some had no prior experience in application development. The development team was divided in two groups for the frontend and backend of the application. The front end developers tackled a mobile development framework which required time to learn and understand the framework before it could be used in the development of our app. This was a challenge with the current timeframe and a close deadline. However, we overcame this so far as we were able to implement the news and maps feature of our app. The UX design of the app also took a fair amount of time to follow the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) guidelines in keeping the interface as simple as possible for the target audience involving elderly people who are less familiar with the technology. The backend was implemented completely and prototypes were made, however, due to time constraint the front end is partially developed and needs to be connected with the backend for the full functionality of the app.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

The major accomplishment is the overall idea of our app which helps local communities to connect and make people available for each other to provide and receive support during this major outbreak. The app can also be utilised to help our medical organisations who are working day in and out with huge risks involved, at the same time it gives our people an opportunity to directly benefit these organisations without any prior medical experience. Furthermore, the app acts as a learning platform for the upcoming generation to help the people in need and provides them with an opportunity to do so. Lastly, I am proud of the team involvement and contribution in making this possible in less than a week starting from brainstorming potential ideas for the app to distributing tasks among team members and thorough research of the topic as well as identifying the suitable development tools and languages to use as they were new for some of the members. The development and testing of the user interface, frontend, and backend were done in two days with some functionalities yet to go, however, this portrayed a brilliant teamwork example and a great achievement in tackling all the challenges faced as a team of students.

What we learned

By participating in this Global Hackathon to build software solutions and help the community through this global pandemic we learnt to work as a team and tackle real life problems we are going through right now. We put our problem solving and critical thinking skills together so we can think from the perspective of all those vulnerable people who are affected and meet their needs.

We have also learnt to improve our time management skills as we had a limited time frame for this hackathon. We adopted an agile process so we started with a lot of ideation and planning, moving onto requirements and then creating some wireframes and mock-ups.

During these tough times for all of us, we have learnt to be as productive as possible by participating in this Hackathon and spend our time doing social good and making a positive impact in the community. We took advantage of this opportunity to enhance our communication and collaborative skills as a team.

What's next for CCV (Connecting Communities to Volunteer) - Covention

Our next steps are to launch our platform to the Apple & Play store so they are ready to be used by all the people who need support or would like to offer their support as a volunteer. We have already spoken to potential sponsors and organisations that would be interested in taking this project further so we can all, as a community, benefit from it.

We want to grow our user base and promote our app as much as possible so it can get to all those vulnerable people who need support from the local community as well as reach out to all of those people globally who are brave and are willing to help and volunteer as soon as possible. We really appreciate everyone’s efforts and we will start this initiative as all of our group members become volunteers on the platform firstly.

We want to help this expand this initiative around the globe, which is why we want to first get in touch with the NHS in the UK and all the bigger platforms helping with COVID in all the different countries so they can help promote this initiative and the platform is easily accessible for everyone on just a button click.

We aim to get through this together, as a community, and being able to provide any help from our side for all the vulnerable people who are fighting against this virus motivates us even more to support them. We aim to grow and reach out to all those people for support.

Try It out

Hackathons

Technologies

amazon-dynamodb, amazon-web-services, google-maps, google-material-ui, javascript, lambda, newsapi.org, python, react, react-native

Devpost Software Identifier

257083