Do not adjust your set: Here are three stories about the IT industry doing some good during COVID-19 pandemic

Let's stow the snark a mo and acknowledge this helpful tech


Roundup In a departure from our usual snark, The Register presents a trio of tales of tech companies doing some good in the current pandemic.

What happens when a bunch of techies find themselves sitting at home with not much to do?

Demonstrating what the tech industry can do when it puts its mind to it, a platform called "Bytes For Heroes" has been set up with the goal of keeping those at the sharp, pointy end of the COVID-19 pandemic response topped up with tasty grub.

Peter Rossi – former director of Cloud, Life Sciences and Research at UKCloud – founded the outfit after, in his words, "feeling pretty useless sat working from home and not being able to make a tangible difference".

He noted a friend had parked a catering van outside Southmead Hospital in Bristol and handed out 600 bacon baps and hog roasts to staff. Rossi funded a further 2,000 meals before reckoning that something a little bigger might be possible.

"We want to support the supporters," he told The Register, with donations from the tech sector going to pay catering firms either nationally or locally. "For example," he said, "UKCloud in Farnborough may choose to support Frimley Park Hospital. We will then directly apportion their donation to caterers that can support Frimley Park."

The team is also looking beyond NHS staff to food banks.

The technology itself consists of an iOS or Android app (due for launch on Friday) with a MySQL back-end. The plan is that an NHS worker can register on the app, see a list of participating caterers and get a QR code every 24 hours that can be redeemed for some free grub.

As for donations, registered caterers have a number of options including invoicing the donating tech company direct or via a charity partner. Bytes for Heroes itself is not yet a registered charity, although is staffed entirely by volunteers.

UKCloud is providing the hosting for free (Rossi told us AWS had also volunteered its infrastructure) and the app itself has been put together by Made By Prism.

While no personal information is shared, the platform does log the redeeming of the code for a meal by a caterer on a given day. As well as keeping the funds flowing, the data provides "statistics back to tech companies on the good that their money is doing", according to Rossi.

The team is also working on food delivery options, depending on the needs of hospitals.

SCC and AWS go PPE

Other tech companies have also been lobbing freebies at the crisis as services-based reseller SCC buddied up with AWS to launch a national Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) website alongside Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH).

The deployment took 48 hours, at no cost to CUH, and is a resource for the whole of the NHS on the practical aspects of PPE. It was developed by SCC teams in the UK and Vietnam, who have volunteered time outside working hours to keep developing the website.

It's a very useful thing, if a little grim, and details the day-to-day scenarios encountered in a COVID-19 pandemic, what to do with contaminated gear and what PPE is needed (and when). The multiple-choice questions are updated as new guidance is released.

Poke around Johns Hopkins' COVID-19 data without wrangling CSV files

The work of the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center has proven invaluable as the pandemic unfolds. While the dashboard is a useful tool, the data behind it is also available, albeit as flat CSV files.

Those files are also a manual download.

For those who might want to slice and dice that data themselves without fiddling with downstream ETL, MongoDB has placed a copy in its cloudy Atlas database, which can be queried via MongoDB Query (naturally) or the likes of SQL. At present the team pulls down an update once a day at midnight (UTC).

The data, according to MongoDB, is not modified. "It is simply structured to make it easier to query," said the team.

It is also completely free for anyone to query.

Go safe, people. ®


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