In the scope of the hackathon "WirVsVirus" – which took place on one weekend and was co-organized by the German government – the almost 30,000 participants developed 1,500 solutions to problems related to the coronavirus. TUM student Marc Sommer was one of them. Together with his team, with their project "Machbarschaft", he was voted among the Top 20 by a jury.
Marc, congratulations on your success! What exactly is "Machbarschaft"?
Marc Sommer: Our project group consists of very different people from all over Germany, some of them students and some of them working people, who came together at the Hackathon. Our common project "Machbarschaft" is a neighborhood project. We wanted to connect people from the digital world with people from the analogue world. The project aims to help people from corona risk groups who have no or only limited access to the Internet to get access to internet-based neighborhood assistance.
How exactly is this supposed to work?
We built a hotline with a bot. Anyone can simply call by phone and submit a request for help. The message is then automatically digitized and sent to helpers in the area, in the form of a push notification. Once a helper is found, he or she can simply get in contact by phone and discuss the further procedure and details in person. We offer assistance in this process and can also provide recommendations based on those of the Robert Koch Institute – on how to hand over the shopping safely, for example.
Your project was voted as one of the Top 20 of the Hackathon. What does that mean for you and your team?
The Hackathon was co-organized by the German government – and, as winners, we were automatically included in a six-month support program. Further, will receive ideational and also monetary support by the Prototype Fund from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The ultimate goal of the funding program is that the projects of the Hackathon will be implemented and put into practice as soon as possible. We are working on this at full speed.
What is the current status of your "Machbarschaft" project?
We are currently in the final stage of building the app – last design changes and testing. At the same time, we are trying to find cooperation partners who will help us to bring the product to the target group. Our core target group are people over 60 without internet access. For these people, using our product also means placing trust in us. To achieve this, we are especially dependent on promotion by communities and regional neighborhood associations.
What does it mean to you to be involved in this project?
The project means a lot to me. We are using technology to help people. At the beginning, I just thought "Cool, a hackathon!". Now, I'm really happy that our project can make a difference, that we can help people by means of digitalization. Digitalization has become an integral part of everyday life – which is a step in the right direction. I hope our initiative will become something in the way of a showcase project. Digitalization is the future.
(Interview: Sabrina Czechofsky)
Marc Sommer (21), who is from the Hamburg region, studied Business Informatics in Lüneburg at Leuphana in the Bachelor's degree program before moving to TUM for his Master's studies. He is a scholarship holder of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation and the Claussen Simon Foundation, among others. More information: Machbarschaft – ein Anruf macht’s möglich