If you were to play a game of “Never have I ever…” with a bunch of strangers from all around the world now, most of us would be raising our hand at the statements:

  • “… stayed home for more than 2 weeks”
  • “… used a Zoom background”
  • “… tried new recipes”

and so forth. We are living through an unprecedented period in human history and COVID-19 is both a rude awakening and a clarion call for us to do better. Your time is now. #codeathonX is inviting you and friends to solve for the areas below.

Disclaimer: The scenarios and personas listed below are fictional. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Use these as references to help you get started. You are by no means limited to solving for these only.

Create innovations for:

  • SDG3: Good health and well-being
  • SDG4: Quality education
  • SDG8: Decent work and economic growth
  • SDG11: Sustainable cities and communities


SDG impacted: 3 (Good health and well-being) 

Opportunity: Well-being in a Time of Corona

As an anxiety-inducing pandemic sweeps over the globe, demand for mental health services have skyrocketed all over the globe – and China is no exception. Physical and mental health care applications have gained popularity, with Chinese users spending 20% more time on these applications in the first week of March (as compared to the same period in January). Online psychological counselling services have also been offered free of charge by Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group and WeDoctor[1].

However, China has historically suffered from a dearth of mental health professionals, which does not bode well for any nation amid a “heightened public mental health crisis”[2].   

Yinghui is a student from Wuhan University, which has yet to re-open. She is feeling mentally stressed and wants to seek online psychological counselling, but her internet connection is unstable and she lives in a small, noisy household, so she is worried that such sessions will not be conduciveIn addition to her own mental health, she is worried about her mother and grandmother. Things have been tense at home and everyone’s sleep quality has suffered. Her mother is a health official who thinks she is too busy to seek out psychological help. Her grandmother is also dismissive of seeking mental health support, and she does not think that she needs psychological counselling. 

How can we redesign online psychological services to help Yinghui and her family find the mental support they need?

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SDG impacted: 4 (Quality education) 

Opportunity: Crossing Cultures from Your Couch 

Anxieties rush in where school administrators dread to tread. In lieu of in-person lessons, frustrations are now trending amongst student populations and parents whose lines between work, diaper-changing and caregiving are now non-existent. 217,200 Singaporeans[1] who were based abroad for work or studies in in Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States and China mostly have had to return home. With so many lives disrupted and graduation plans affected, students need a way to continue learning so they can graduate on time and brace themselves for a future of unprecedented uncertainty. 

Lihui is a final year history major in Tsinghua University who has been taking classes online since this February. She needs a way to stay connected with her classmates but there are aspects of the in-person experience that cannot be easily replicated online, for e.g. the ability to have free-flowing conversations.

How might we create immersive experiences for overseas students that have returned to their home countries so that they can still enjoy “being overseas” on the cloud? 

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Opportunity: Reimagine Assessments 

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, educators all over the world have had to adjust to home-based learning all but overnight. Both educators and students alike struggle to adjust to the difficulties of remote education (including technical difficulties, the awkwardness of seminar participation, and in some cases, the impossibilities of holding practical lessons), and teachers bear the additional burden of assessing their students’ academic progress during online lessons and examinations. To make matters worse, some opportunistic students have taken remote assessments as a chance to cheat on their examinations. 

Woo Wei Chong is a History professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. In addition to his research work for the university, he teaches a World War II module to large groups of students, ranging from 80 to a hundred. Due to the size of his classes, Professor Woo has found it tiring to effectively communicate with and chart his students’ progress over lectures and seminars. He needs a way to assess students’ learning effectively (and hopefully, at scale) as both formative and summative assessments are required for grading. 

How might we redesign the way we measure learning for university students so that they can signal their capabilities effectively? 

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SDG impacted: 8 (Decent work and economic growth) 

Opportunity: Entrepreneurship Without Borders 

As the saying goes, no one is created equal – and the sentiment certainly extends to economies. Some developing economies are plagued with issues such as poor infrastructure and corruption – neither of which are particularly conducive to starting a business. These barriers in turn prevent the creation of jobs, hindering economic development. 

The importance of infrastructure on start-ups cannot be understated – unreliable transportation, internet access and power are said to have hindered the growth of African start ups[1], and stifled Asia’s growth[2]. Likewise, corruption is not conducive for entrepreneurship. While not a uniquely Asian problem, it certainly is prevalent within the region. In 2019, the Asia Pacific averaged 44 out of 100 for the third year in a row on the Corruptions Perceptions Index[3], which is concerning as corruption has been found to, in general, decrease both the overall business activity and number of business establishments within a municipality[4].  

Aditya is a 22-year-old aspiring entrepreneur in Indonesia, a nation possessing poor infrastructure and prevalent government corruption. He wishes to start a business, but the conditions in his country are not conducive for entrepreneurship. He wishes to move his operations overseas to a country whose institutions are more conducive to start-ups, such as Singapore.[5]  However, Aditya lacks the capital to physically move to another nation to kick-start his operations. 

How might we help Aditya remotely move his operations to a more conducive environment for entrepreneurship?  

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SDG impacted: 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) 

Opportunity: Fighting Fake News 

The rampant proliferation of fake news is a spectre that is haunting the globe, and while no netizen is exempt from its reach, some are more susceptible than others. It comes as no surprise that internet users over the age of 65 shared almost seven times as much fake news as their younger counterparts[1]. Due to a lack of digital literacy and a concern for those within their community, elder netizens are wont to unwittingly spread misinformation to their social media following, possibly perpetuating misleading and harmful messages over the course of this pandemic.

Boonsri is a 65-year-old retiree living in Bangkok, and she is unaware that older social media users are the biggest spreaders of fake news in Thailand[2]. Like most of us, Boonsri harbours deep anxiety about the current pandemic. When she sees news about the novel coronavirus on her Facebook she reposts the news so that her friends and family can stay safe and informed. Unfortunately, her children sometimes inform her that the articles she is posting contains false information. 

How can we help Boonsri discern credible news from fake ones on her social media feed? 

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