Homeschooling requires good nerves
The social debate right now is often about why digitization has not yet sufficiently arrived in public institutions. I’m thinking of schools, healthcare and public administration. Anyone who has schoolchildren at home, like me, is amazed at the slow pace at which digitization is progressing in educational institutions – yet in these times of pandemic, it is more urgent than ever. Above all, homeschooling means printing out a lot of paper. And having good nerves.
It’s not necessarily because they don’t want to. Most teachers are committed. But the technical hurdles are often just too high. Perhaps more people would otherwise program apps themselves! For that to happen, digitization would have to be democratized. The democratization of digitization is a key element for me because digitization should not only be driven by business models. In addition to the private sector, we also need the third sector in Germany, i.e., associations, foundations and NGOs.
More than hardware: Low code for the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW)
Nevertheless, companies also have a duty to assume social responsibility in this area. In April, Siemens Caring Hands e.V. donated 668 tablets to the THW Foundation for all local associations. Sure, that helps with digitization. But is that enough? It is much more crucial to involve the people who ultimately use the technical possibilities. And this is where we come in, by equipping the tablets with software that enables THW to program apps for specific use cases independently and without much prior knowledge.
We are therefore organizing a virtual hackathon this week – together with the THW. Five teams are competing for the best ideas. They consist of THW employees and one Siemens mentor each from our “Yes!WeHelp” initiative. On Friday, the best apps will be selected, which will then help THW in its daily operations. The teams have been working on this for weeks. They are developing their applications based on ideas that have already been evolved. The whole thing doesn’t require a complicated programming language. Thanks to the no-code/low-code application by Mendix, a business unit of Siemens, the teams can program simply by “just” pushing icons together.
Targeted in times of crisis
This has two major advantages: It saves time and we can involve people in digital content design who have little to no knowledge of programming. This means, for example, that order management (which urgently needed piece of equipment is currently at which local unit?) and respiratory protection monitoring for THW colleagues can be digitized, enabling more targeted and safer planning of operations in times of crisis such as the current pandemic.
The Pros know what they need
In the event of a crisis, the 80,000 THW volunteers out there have to provide assistance. They know best where things go wrong. They can now get involved and build their own digital solutions because our platform allows them to build an app without much knowledge. We’re lowering access barriers and democratizing and accelerating their digitization together!
Local associations are enthusiastic
I hear from THW that the hackathon has been super well-received internally. From the local associations, many have actively reported to the head office: “We want to participate in the hackathon!” Incidentally, it helps the THW recruit new talent when young people can not only be offered a tablet with up-to-date software to get started, but also the chance to tinker with other applications. And from what i´ve seen today during the award ceremony, i am not only overwhelmed by the results but even more about the spirit of the whole group.
In our collaboration with THW, we are demonstrating the opportunities that digitization offers in our social engagements with partners – also and especially with partners who so far have struggled to exploit the benefits of digitization and technical progress for themselves. Therefore, Low-Code offers the perfect conditions, with a little help from mentors, to not only involve the actual experts in programming, but to turn them into app programmers. So, it’s never too late. By the way – and despite all the necessary data protection requirements – not even for the school system.