Tapping into the talent of local innovators to ‘hack’ the challenges of COVID-19 in Somalia

UNDP Accelerator Lab Somalia
3 min readJul 6, 2020


With a health infrastructure devastated by decades of war and with dangerously low levels of public awareness about how to avoid infection, Somalia faces incalculable damage to its people and institutions if it cannot stop COVID-19 in its tracks.

Rapid and innovative responses are needed on the ground now to prevent a disaster.

Creative Somali entrepreneurs have already come up with solutions to help people cope in these difficult times. Dr. Sadiyo Siad has developed reusable masks.

And a group of Somali tech wizards have developed an innovative WhatsApp bot to provide up-to-date and accurate information about COVID-19 for healthcare workers and the public.

We must do all we can to encourage and support the development and scaling up of solutions like these.

That’s why UNDP Somalia’s Accelerator Lab has joined forces with the Institute of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, Harnhub and Hanaqad.

Our first big effort to tap into the talents of local Somali innovators is now underway — a hackathon to crowdsource ideas for tackling the wide-ranging impacts of this pandemic.

With this hackathon we are calling on the innovation community, engineers, designers and students to come up with feasible solutions that can be developed and implemented as soon as possible.

We have identified four key challenges for the hackathon:

1) Production of Essential Supplies: Demand for Personal Protective Equipment and other essential supplies is skyrocketing across the world and in Somalia. Relying on imports is not the best solution. The challenge is to find ways to help local entrepreneurs produce face masks, gloves, ventilators, sanitizers and testing kits using locally available materials.

2) Software applications: Controlling the spread of Covid-19 requires extensive support from software to test, trace and track. The challenge is to develop tech to help boost testing and contact-tracing, including crowdsourcing data, alert platforms, thermal cameras and emergency response apps.

3) Empowering the Healthcare Workforce: Healthcare providers urgently need training in the latest best practices for protecting themselves and providing the best possible care for patients. The challenge is to find ways to keep healthcare workers up-to-date at a time when global knowledge and data about COVID-19 are constantly changing.

4) Extensive testing: Without widespread and effective testing we are all working in the dark. The challenge is to develop affordable, accessible, safe and easy-to-use testing for the Somali population, including displaced communities who are especially vulnerable to outbreaks.

The hackathon will take place on 26 July 2020 and will be fully virtual. Teams will be collaborating online over 48 hours with mentor support.

The winners will receive seed funding to turn their ideas and solutions into workable prototypes.

The hackathon is open to all residents of Somalia aged over 18. People of all experience levels and skill sets are welcome, regardless of professional and academic backgrounds. What matters most is your commitment to making as big an impact as possible to help Somalia in this crisis.

Register here by 20 July 2020: https://forms.gle/kaYeARRQsfSEuZE97

Contact us at acclab.so@undp.org. We are happy to answer any queries you have about the hackathon.



UNDP Accelerator Lab Somalia

Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 60 Labs in 78 countries. http://acceleratorlabs.undp.org/