COVID has been with us for more than year. It has been a challenge in many ways in terms of social gatherings, ensuring the health of those dear to us (and everyone else), economic prosperity, etc.

About three years ago my colleague – Eliah Spencer – and I had a discussion about doing things that make a difference. If we could untangle from the daily business of getting the next grant, teaching the next course, … what would we do?

Building a new world

What are the key issues to address? How about access to healthcare, food, innovation, and sustainable growth? How can we possibly address these issues? Most past approaches have been centrally organized. Not clear that such approaches are always effective. Could we imagine an approach that is citizen centric, i.e., can we empower people to address these issues themselves? What toolkits should be in place for citizens to address these issues?

When COVID showed its ugly head it was an obvious use-case. How could people participate in addressing the pandemic? As many medical students are stuck at home, could they help answer questions about the pandemic? I.e., could we recruit 100s of students to address questions that people have from the front-line, small businesses, or the general public? Could people report on their experience staying at home? and could we provide information for people at home if they suspect that may have been exposed to COVID?

EARTH-2.0 – A first experiment with COVID.

To test the potential of such an approach we organized the project Earth 2.0 – earth2.ucsd.edu – with a number of local colleagues.

Answering questions was organized as a project – co-respond. Initially, the project was organized for front-line workers. If they had questions – building support for Personalized Emergency Devices (PEDs)? Can glasses help protect you from the pandemic? etc. Answers are sent using SMS, email, … to a triage desk where it is posted for the community to pickup. Once a question is answered it is checked by professionals (MDs or PEs) to ensure that the solution is valid. The validated answers are returned to the person that requested an answer and the solution is entered into a community database. The solutions were later admitted to the mobile app – Relief Central – as a separate solution area. Relief Central is supported by Unbound Medicine as a social good. The organization is committed to enhancing and delivering healthcare knowledge through digital and mobile innovation, partnerships, and a passion for advancing healthcare. The relief central app is available for Android and IOS.

The second sub-project was Oasis. The underlying idea is to allow people to put their story on a map. Lots of people have experiences from the COVID period in terms of how their illness presented, isolation, doing new projects,.. OASIS is a mechanism to share experiences and gain new insights. Recording the experience, test results, age, other information, to allow people to see how how others in their neighborhood area doing. This is similar to a story board such as facebook for people to share their experience in terms of great things and challenges. The Oasis project is mainly designed, implemented and operated by students from UC San Diego.

The third sub-project is Homebound, which was designed to allow people to record and share their health data and be guided by best practices if they are at home ill with COVID. By providing this information it is possible for people to assist with their own medical care without having to check in by phone, video, or in person with a medical professional — and it scales much better during times when the systems is already under a heavy workload.

Details about the project and the full project team is presented at earth2.ucsd.edu

Eli: The child had its one year anniversary and is doing well. What to do next?