VersusVirusCH – COVID-19 unifies Switzerland

In the spirit of prior VersusVirus hackathons that took place all over the world, VersusVirusCH started during the weekend of 03.04. – 05.04.2020. More than 5000 people from all parts of Switzerland’s society joined this online hackathon to find solutions against COVID-19, and how to live with it. One of the outcomes was the vanishing of the “Röstigraben” during this weekend, normally dividing Switzerland into a French-speaking and German-speaking part.

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc, volunteers from ImpactHub Switzerland around Christoph Birkholz and Felix Stähli aimed to combine the strengths and creativity of Swiss people in finding solutions against COVID-19.

The decision to host a Swiss-wide online hackathon has been spontaneously made two weeks prior to the event. “We had the idea to initiate a Swiss-wide online hackathon already in November,” says Connie Low from ImpactHub Basel, “and when we were facing COVID-19 this has been the natural choice”. In addition, the organisers benefited from findings and insights of the VersusVirus hackathons that took place in other countries, such as Poland and Germany. gluoNNet supported the organisation team because of the unique portfolio of knowledge exchange and huge hackathon organising experiences.

Röstigraben does not exist anymore

“On this weekend we’ve torn down the Röstigraben,” says Laura Oligati with sparkling eyes. But it was more than this. One person volunteered in translating the webpage content into Romantsch, the fourth official Swiss language – it was important to him having all four languages, representing Switzerland as a whole.

More than 5000 participants and 500 mentors formed over 600 teams in seven categories and created a vibrant atmosphere. In helpful “How to” videos, the participants received useful information regarding their submission. The artist Sketch4Good summarized the tasks in beautiful sketches. Alain Berset, head of the Swiss Federal Council, gave an interview to develop sustainable ideas and partnerships. “I’d like to cordially thank you for having taken the time this weekend investing all your skills in finding innovative solutions in the current crisis,” says Isabelle Moret, president of the national Federal Council and one of the hackathon’s mentors, during the closing ceremony.

A jury involving distinguished members from science, medicine, and economy awarded three highlights of the seven sections at the end of the VersusVirusCH hackathon. Additionally, all participants were invited to apply for additional funding as well as to join an Incubator.

VersusVirusCH continues

Two of gluoNNet’s co-founders, Daniel Dobos and Karolos Potamianos, are involved in the Incubator as well, sharing their rich expertise with the other members from the former organising team. Everybody’s exceptional contribution throughout the weeks before, during the hackathon weekend, and in the follow up even led to a mention in Forbes magazine.

Even in these dark times where COVID-19 shows its power of destruction, there is a lot of creativity – events like VersusVirusCH illustrate this evidently. These hackathons are an excellent example on how an innovative community successfully addresses challenges.

Shaunak Sirodaria and his group from Pune/India participated and want to adapt this amazing format for an Indian version of VersusCirusCH.


Date: Apr 25, 2020
AUTHOR: Kristiane Novotny
Event, Hackathon

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