A Developer in a COVID-19 World

I’m a developer, how can I help?

Often times I forget that as a developer, I’m able to touch the lives of millions of people with the software I create. As I sit behind a screen, I often forget that it is real humans using creations spun out of the air, through my arms, typed onto the keyboard and deployed to the masses. Recently however, the human factor has become more and more apparant as governments shutdown social gatherings and going shopping has become a game of hide and seek as you attempt to avoid the person who’s coughing next to you.

I’m a developer, I solve problems and help people solve their own problems as well through the use of software. One day I was sitting around contemplating how I could use my skills to better help others… I’m thought to myself, I’m not a medical professional, I don’t have a 3D printer to make materials with and donate to my local hospital, so what could I possibly do to help those around me? After Googling around the internet, I stumbled upon a couple of cool other developers who apparently had the same thought process as me. What can we, as developers, do to help those in need?

Enter the COVID-19 API Zombie Hoards

There are several APIs available to monitor, visualize, and track metrics around the COVID-19 crisis. My good old favorite postman has a growing list of available (and free to use) APIs. There’s also this really cool visualization tool for API structures, specifically for COVID-19 data and it’s relationships.

So… lot’s of resources (and as a developer we always appreciate generously available resources) to develop with! Sweet, I thought to myself. Now what? What can I build that could help my community? Personally I wanted to know when would be the best time to go shopping at my local grocery store. Ah ha I thought, Google knows the answer, they have metrics on this and predict when stores are going to be busy, surely all this social distancing has affected their algorithms and above all they have to have an API for it. Of course they have the “Popular Times” API! Sweet! I also have a sweet grandmother who has an iPhone and I’m pretty sure she would like to know when is the least crowded time for her to go to the store since she is in the target age that is affected the most from the virus.

Grandma Approved “When to Shop” App

I thought to myself, this is perfect! I can help her and potentially help others like her and enable her to shop safely (as safe as she can in this day and age). The application is simple, send push notifications about when to shop based on her geolocation around local shops. This predictions is based on Google’s Map API and “Popular Times” graphs.

Closing thoughts

It may not be the “Facebook” or “Uber” of apps however it provides me with comfort knowing that I helped my grandmother out by potentially surfacing useful data to her that actually helps her accomplish a simple task… Shopping at a safe hour with minimal amount of contact in order to comply with social distancing and reduce her chances of contracting the virus. Yes it’s a niche market. Do I care? No. Something so simple as this can help thousands! So… If you have an app idea to help people, DO NOT be afraid to pursue it. You might find that a simple task for you to do (such as shopping) may not be so simple for others especially if you can surface useful information to people in an easily consumable way.

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