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Messenger Partners with Developers to Provide Government Health Organizations with Free Services to Respond to Coronavirus Pandemic

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Today, we’re announcing two initiatives to support government health organizations in combating the coronavirus pandemic. We’re partnering with our developer community to provide free services to government health organizations and UN health agencies to help them use Messenger to scale their response to the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, Argentina’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Innovation is launching a Messenger experience today to provide timely and reliable information about coronavirus. We’re also creating an online hackathon and inviting developers to build messaging solutions that address challenges related to the coronavirus such as social distancing and keeping people educated and informed.

Free Developer Resources for Government Health Organizations

Communities around the world are dealing with quarantines and other disruptions to daily life because of the coronavirus outbreak. Our mission to help people connect and be closer together is more important than ever, and it’s critical we provide people with full access to the latest and most reliable information. As is common in any crisis, people are using digital channels like Messenger to stay connected and get information from trusted health authorities that are on the front lines fighting this global pandemic.

To that end, we’re launching a global program to connect government health organizations and UN health agencies with developers that can help them use Messenger most effectively to share timely and accurate information, and speed up their responses to concerned citizens. Our developer partners have offered to provide their services free of charge to these organizations during this crisis. Developers will help with things like automating responses to commonly asked questions, which can take some of the burden off of overwhelmed staff. They’ll also show these organizations how to share updates with their audience most effectively and how to seamlessly transition from automated conversations to chatting with a live person when necessary.

Today, Argentina’s Ministry of Health is launching a Messenger experience, with support from Botmaker.com, to answer questions from the public about the coronavirus, and to provide fast, reliable and official advice 24 hours a day. Organizations like UNICEF and Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination (NHSRC) are also using Messenger to ensure people have the latest information about COVID-19.

Dr. Zafar Mirza, the Special Assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Health, said, “Facebook’s support on the global coronavirus crisis will be crucial for strengthening public awareness and empowering our citizens with key health tips that will keep communities safe in Pakistan and around the world. The Messenger experience allows our Ministry to scale our support and serve citizens seeking up to date information on the coronavirus, while keeping our helpline open for more critical cases.”

Given the need to share timely information about the coronavirus is critical to keeping communities safe and informed, we are also making it possible for government health organizations and UN health agencies to proactively send important updates related to COVID-19 to people already messaging them.

Online Hackathon to Tackle COVID-19 Social Issues

We’re also partnering with hackathon provider Devpost to invite developers around the world to participate in an online hackathon leveraging the Messenger platform to build messaging solutions that address COVID-19 issues like social distancing and keeping people educated and informed.

Participants will be encouraged to build both global and local solutions and will receive unique access to Messenger-related content, including Facebook Live tutorials with product experts and a range of educational materials to support innovation. Winners will get mentoring from Facebook engineers to help make these solutions a reality. They’ll also receive invitations to attend F8 2021, including flights and accommodations, and will be given the opportunity to participate in the F8 hackathon.

Developers who are interested in participating can subscribe to the Facebook for Developers newsletter for updates.

We’re committed to leveraging our resources and Messenger’s reach, tools and technology to ensure government health organizations and UN health agencies around the world have the resources they need to share timely, accurate information on the coronavirus to keep people safe and informed.

Facebook Developers

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Winners of our first Facebook Online Hackathon announced

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Expanding on our annual Developer Circles Community Challenge and the in-person hackathons we held across North America last year, we were excited to launch our brand new Facebook Online Hackathon series for global developers earlier this month.

We know that building opportunities like hackathons are a great way for aspiring and experienced innovators to develop new skills, grow their networks and ship breakthrough solutions – whether they’re creating their first-ever coding project to showcase in a job interview, or bringing that advanced engineering idea to life.

We also know that providing special access to product resources, mentoring and trouble-shooting helps set developers up for success when applying new technologies to solve challenges. That’s why we’re committed to supporting the journey and experience of all developers on our platform.

For our first hackathon in this new series, we opened up three tech tracks for participants – Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Messaging – and offered up to $21,000 in cash prizes, as well as the opportunity to join us at our annual developer conference, F8 2021.

Given the many social issues currently arising around coronavirus (COVID-19), we were also inspired to see developers ship a range of projects aimed at addressing some of the challenges being experienced as a result of this global pandemic.

Our winners

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Creating intuitive solutions using PyTorch

First place ($3,000 + an invitation, flights and accommodation for F8 2021):
Torch Drowsiness Monitor
A drowsiness and attention monitor for driving featuring PyTorch’s Computer Vision

Second place ($2,500):
PneumoScan
A radiology tool built on PyTorch supporting the COVID-19 pandemic

Third place ($1,500):
hep-recommender
An AI-based system for recommending scientific articles

Augmented Reality (AR)
Building immersive solutions using Spark AR’s World Effects

First place ($3,000 + an invitation, flights and accommodation for F8 2021):
Rabbit Coder
An AR solution teaching programming concepts in the form of a puzzle

Second place ($2,500):
COVID-19 Coronavirus
An educational AR experience on the virus, its impact, and prevention measures

Third place ($1,500):
RollercoastAR
A gaming experience enabling users to customize and create an AR roller-coaster simulator

Messaging
Empowering conversations using Messenger

First place ($3,000 + an invitation, flights and accommodation for F8 2021):
ReWise: AI-powered revision bot
An interactive Messenger bot to help students revise their coursework

Second place ($2,500):
Sign Language Dictionary Bot
A Messenger bot enabling users to upload to sign language videos for dictionary definitions

Third place ($1,500):
MathPhysy
An online tutoring service for maths and physics delivered through Messenger

Congratulations to these inspiring innovators and thank you to everyone who participated!

New hackathons coming soon

Remember, this is just the beginning. Keep an eye out for the next online hackathon in our series by signing up for our Facebook for Developers email newsletter.

For those keen to continue building, I also wanted to let you know about another special hackathon announced yesterday.

#BuildforCOVID19 Global Online Hackathon

We’ve seen time and time again that our developer ecosystem is passionate and purposeful about leveraging technology to deliver software that builds community and solves real-world problems.

As we all consider the timely and meaningful action we can take to tackle issues related to COVID-19, there’s never been a better time for our community to ideate and innovate together.

I’d therefore like to take this opportunity to encourage as many of you as possible to join the new #BuildforCOVID19 Global Online Hackathon that is being supported by Facebook alongside other companies and platforms in the tech industry, as well as partners including the World Health Organization and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

Submissions for the hackathon officially open on Thursday March 26; however you are welcome to register now to start brainstorming.

Thank you again to all of our hackathon participants around the world!

Together we can achieve more.

Facebook Developers

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Pausing Individual Verification

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In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Facebook has been supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. We’ve announced a number of actions we’re taking to make sure everyone has access to up-to-date, accurate information, as well as steps to stop misinformation and harmful content while supporting global health experts, local governments, businesses and communities.

We also recently announced we’re temporarily sending content reviewers home. We want to make sure our platform remains a safe place for people to connect during this time, but with a reduced and remote workforce, we must make temporary changes to our operations.

As a result, we’ve paused individual verification for developers. We’ll resume verification as soon as we can. Business verification will still be available. We are continuing to monitor other impacts this may have on our processes, and we’ll provide updates as the situation evolves.

While we’re working to minimize disruptions, we anticipate that this change will cause inconvenience for our developer community. We appreciate your patience and partnership as we navigate through this unprecedented time together.

Facebook Developers

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Tech By Her: How Three of Facebook’s Women Tech Leaders Have Navigated Their Careers

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To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme of “An equal world is an enabled world,” we’re kicking off “Tech by Her,” a global initiative that champions and supports the women in our developer and startup communities and across the tech ecosystem.

How to Navigate the Challenge of Being a Woman in Tech

In the technology industry, gender disparity continues to be an issue – women held only 20% of all jobs in technology in 20181 and Crunchbase reported that a mere 13% of vested venture capital funds were put behind female co-founded startups in 20192.

It’s no secret that women face unique challenges in the workplace. Because of the gender bias that is prevalent in the tech world, the women currently in senior leadership roles have made it to the top through merit, grit and determination. At Facebook, we brought three of our women leaders from the Developer Partnerships team across the globe to share how they were able to face and overcome their challenges, and find success in the tech field.

Finding Confidence through a Support Network

For Virginia Yang, Director of APAC Developer Partnerships & Programs, her biggest challenge has been facing and overcoming self-doubt. This began for her in university, where she was one of the few women studying computer science. “I often got looks walking into class as if I had entered the wrong room,” she said.

Unfortunately, this did not change when she graduated and began her career, where she was a rare woman in the role of product manager. “I was asked multiple times – and even incredulously – ’You have a degree in computer science?’,” she said.

Additionally, Virginia describes herself as an introvert, and she found it difficult to speak up during meetings that were dominated by more extroverted coworkers. But she learned how to overcome these challenges by finding workplace allies who gave her advice and support. “They were always there when I needed a confidence boost,” Virginia said. “That has really helped me navigate the challenging points I’ve faced throughout my career.”

Standing Up for Yourself and Correcting Gender Bias

As for Viktoria Ruubel, Director of EMEA Developer Partnerships & Programs, she struggled with how to face and correct misconceptions about women in technology. She said, “I vividly remember a situation where I was saying ‘no’ to the terms of a proposed deal and was told this was an emotional response on my part that was probably due to a lack of experience.”

Though Viktoria’s wealth of experience commands respect in the workplace today, she still hears stories of other women who face challenges similar to hers. “This tells me we still have to work hard to increase awareness about how making assumptions based on gender creates a bias, and to always call it out when it happens rather than accept and internalize it.”

Viktoria recalls how she handled – and ultimately corrected – the gender bias she faced during the business deal: “I stood firm on my terms, suggested we revisit the deal when the partner was ready to talk about the deal and not about me and then walked out of the room. It was not long before I received an apology and we closed the deal with my recommendations, which really were win-win for both our companies.”

Confronting inner negativity

Facebook’s Director of Global Product Partnerships, Jackie Chang, knows firsthand how inner self-doubt can lead to self-sabotage and overshadow one’s own value. Returning from maternity leave, Jackie heard the whisperings of self-doubt, which shook her confidence. “I started to question if I’d be able to balance my new reality at home and still have the time and energy to be impactful, drive perspectives and serve others at work,” Jackie said.

Once, when a comment from her manager left her feeling unsettled, Jackie mustered the courage to confront the situation. By being open and honest about her feelings and the situation, she was able to dispel any concerns about her abilities to be an asset to the team. In fact, she learned that she misinterpreted the comment and had allowed self-doubt to guide how she responded in the workplace.

She recalls the outcome of this meeting as being one of increased mutual trust and understanding and manifested into a fruitful partnership. “This was a very impactful lesson for me,” she said. “I learned the importance of addressing challenges head-on and cutting to the truth rather than entertaining the negative chatter in my mind.”

Finding Inspiration through Facebook Communities

At Facebook, we are committed to enabling an equal world by driving diversity in the tech ecosystem. We have established tech hubs in fifteen cities across the world alongside intensive programs such as our Accelerator program and Developer Circles (DevC). These programs provide developers and startups – especially those helmed by women – access to training, guidance and mentorship, which can lead them to scale their careers and businesses sustainably. Read some of the inspirational stories of women innovators and startup founders who are raising the bar all around the world here.

Join us in celebrating a woman in tech whom you know of by giving her a shout-out on your social channels with the hashtag #TechbyHer. You can also engage in the conversation by joining future FB Lives and look out for videos we’ll be sharing on our Facebook pages across Facebook for Developers, Facebook Developer Circles and Facebook for Startups.


Favorite Community Story:

Virginia Yang’s pick:
One of my favorite stories of all time is of Nyha Shree, Co-founder of Jumper.ai, an AI-enabled software platform that helps businesses chat and connect with customers via social media platforms. I love that though she failed to find success with several startup ventures, Nyha never gave up – not even when she was living on 40 cents a day and facing pressure from friends and family to get a stable job. Today, Jumper.ai – her sixth venture – is a Facebook product partner that has over 15,000 using their service. Nyha’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit has been a huge inspiration to me.Read Nyha’s story here
Viktoria Ruubel’s pick:
I relate to Tamara & Mariia Koliada’s journey. Like Tamara I often felt like I was being judged not by my abilities, but by my gender and physical appearance. I admire greatly the way both the Koliada sisters are forging careers in tech despite prejudice and how they inspire other women within their Developer Circle community.
Read Tamara and Mariia’s story here
Jackie Chang’s pick:
The story of Katherine from Whatsquare really resonates with me. Katherine was able to draw on her experience in marketing, communications, and business development to identify a market gap and opportunity in customer care. Beyond her business, she strives to build community and connections with other female entrepreneurs to draw on a stronger collective of support and expertise. We need more Katherines to grow the community of global female leaders!
Read Katherine’s story here

1 Only 20% of Tech Jobs are Held by Women, How About at Your.” 13 Mar. 2018, https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/03/women-in-technology-statistics.html. Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.
2 “Crunchbase Report: Venture Funding For Female Founders ….” 22 Oct. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2019/10/22/crunchbase-report-venture-funding-for-female-founders-falls/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2020.Facebook Developers

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