Coding for the sake of coding is a trend today, as evidenced by hackathons and codathons. In the age of hackathons, it is common to think of code as a throwaway commodity–something which in itself suffices. Have coding at stretch for 24 or 48 hours, boxes of pizzas, and super duper fancy ninja rocking hype words, and you’ve got yourself a hackathon.

Don’t get me wrong. Hackathons do have their place. I believe they are an excellent tool for learning if done in a healthy manner. They are also a great place to build MVPs and POCs to validate ideas. Fortunately, we do see hackathons growing in that direction. For the most part, however, the image of the hackathon is of a competition where you throw away all your work in the end.

Enter the Call for Code initiative. This initiative is a call to developers to use their skills to drive positive change across the world. It was created by David Clark Cause along with IBM as a founding partner. The UN Human Rights office and American Red Cross support this initiative as a charitable partner. It is also supported by several other sponsors and affiliates, particularly, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and The Linux Foundation.

Answer the Call

Where most other hackathons only provide the joy of learning and building something, the call for code would also provide the satisfaction of seeing your work actually help someone and change the world. That’s right, apart from winning the $200,000 in the prize money ($20,000 for second and third place), what you build will actually be deployed where it’s needed. This will be awarded in a global prize event and concert, which will benefit UN Human Rights and the American Red Cross.

You have until 31st August, 2018 to submit your code. Build an application which utilises IBM machine learning or artificial intelligence technologies. The applications are still open. Go to this link and click on “Get Started” button to get started (big surprise!)


There are a few rules to qualify for the call for code initiative.

  • All submissions must be deployed and run on the IBM Cloud. There is a free tier in the form of IBM Cloud Lite which allows you access to many Cloud services for free.
  • All submissions must make use of at least 5 IBM Cloud services. Use of sponsor or affiliate APIs is also encouraged.
  • Teams of up to 5 participants, each at least 18 years old, are allowed.
  • All team members must have completed the Participation Agreement to compete.
  • A participant may not be part of multiple teams.
  • Winning teams will be subject to a code-review after submissions close on August 31.
  • Overall rights of first refusal to invest in projects will be outlined in Participant Agreement.


There is a library of IBM code patterns you may use to start. In fact, you are encouraged to do so. These demonstrate how to use Weather Company, Watson AI, and Blockchain services on the IBM Cloud to build cognitive, social, and analytics applications.

There are IBM Code Patterns for each of six suggested technical solution areas to explore when building your submission for the 2018 Call for Code Challenge. Your submission does not have to fit into one of these areas, but they can inspire what you build:

  • Financial networks built on blockchain technology can improve the distribution of aid before and after a major disaster.
  • Tools that can translate and convert speech to text and vice versa can improve how fast people are warned and assisted.
  • Understanding the healthcare needs of populations in advance can improve their resistance to threats to their health.
  • Understanding weather and traffic conditions can reduce the number of people affected by mobilizing them effectively.
  • Sensor data can be used to predict potential threats from a natural disaster and prompt communities to take action.
  • Visual recognition technology can be used to assess an area for risk before building or otherwise modifying the environment.

Above list is taken from There is more information on that page.

How to get help

All these new technologies may sound intimidating but you are not alone. There are many ways to get help. As soon as you join, you would receive an invite to a Slack team specific for Call for Code teams where you can collaborate. This Slack team houses discussions in various channels related to blockchain technologies, chatbots, healthcare, machine learning, and more.

Call for Code Slack team

Apart from this, IBM is organising meet ups across various cities. You can find an event nearest to you on the events page. These events would be very useful to you to find ideas, inspiration, and even support for your idea.


The Grand prize includes a USD 200,000 cash prize, VC introduction and pitch opportunity, and offer to deploy the solution with IBM Corporate Service Group. The first and second runner ups get a USD 25,000 cash prize. Both grand prize winners and runner ups get an invitation to the Call for Code Global Prize Event and long term open source project support from The Linux Foundation.