Into the Future: PathCheck Foundation Accomplishments in 2020 and Plans for 2021

2020 brought the world a deadly pandemic that continues to ravage communities in every country. PathCheck Foundation was born out of that crisis. In the face of the challenges, as a nascent organization, the PathCheck community accomplished a wide range of amazing contributions to the fight against Covid-19. But, there is so much more to do.  

With the beginning of a new year and a new stage in the global pandemic response focused on vaccination, now is a good time to reflect on the past year and share our plans for the coming year.

PathCheck Foundation was founded at MIT in March 2020, by Ramesh Raskar and a small, passionate team of social entrepreneurs. The initial founding period was followed by a second phase focused on delivering real-world solutions. Now we are entering our third phase, transforming to address the new needs of communities fighting the pandemic and seeking to build resiliency in public health. Below we take a look at the accomplishments in each of these phases and the path forward. 

We've accomplished so much through the tremendous efforts of thousands of people in the PathCheck community working tirelessly to advance the mission. The astonishing level of engagement is hard to capture, but some of the activity metrics from our Slack workspace are an interesting proxy. Of course, this is just a piece of the puzzle and doesn’t represent the thousands of hours spent in collaborating online, researching, writing, designing, coding, testing, editing, and a wide range of other work.  

Weekly active Slack users: 643 at the peak now around 350. 

Phase 1 - Founding

During the founding phase, from March - May 2020, PathCheck grew rapidly. In the first month, more than 1,000 community members joined. At the peak, more than 600 people were active every week in Slack, where our community connects. With a fluid organization and daily meetings at 11 AM EST, the community accomplished a great deal, including: 

  • Published the Apps Gone Rogue paper, which served as a clarion call to policy makers and technology developers to focus on privacy-preserving strategies for digital contact tracing. 
  • Launched the first prototype of SafePaths, demonstrating how a digital contact tracing (DCT) app could use GPS to improve contact tracing while at the same preserving privacy.
  • Set the standard (through more than 200 articles and television appearances, as well as weekly webinars) for how digital contact tracing could help contain the pandemic, revitalize economies, and preserve individual privacy and liberty. 

Phase 2 - Delivering

Our second phase started in June 2020 when we re-organized to operate like a high-performance software company and deliver on the promises we made in the founding phase. In this phase, PathCheck combined incredible full-time and part-time volunteer talent with paid product development talent in a truly unique organization. Again, the organization saw continued success and impact: 

  • Launched two fully functional, production-grade, end-to-end, open source software products: SafePaths for digital contact tracing with GPS, and GAEN Mobile for exposure notification (EN) with the Google/Apple framework. 
  • Deployed real-world EN and DCT solution sin countries and states around the world including Minnesota, Louisiana, Hawaii, Guam, Alabama, Cyprus, and St. Lucious.
  • Supported solutions around the world as hundreds of teams forked our open source projects and built on our innovations. 
  • Advised and collaborating with more than 80 public health authorities at every level of government from the nations to cities. 
  • Built an end-to-end protocol, offline design system, and online app system for fast, secure, privacy-preserving vaccine administering and monitoring.

Today, the PathCheck GAEN Mobile open source software powers exposure notification apps is the most widely adopted EN solution. Moreover, the evidence continues to grow that EN works and it’s having a real world impact saving lives. The EN programs launched by our partners now reach millions of people and saving lives everyday around the world.   

Phase 3 - Expanding 

At the end of 2020, we re-organized PathCheck Foundation to enter the third phase of the organization’s growth and development. We did this to build on the success in 2020, adapt to the changing needs driven by an evolving response to the pandemic, and set the organization up for long-term growth and impact. 

Going forward, PathCheck will be organized and run as a multi-program platform. We are continuing with our core mission to create healthy and resilient communities by protecting public health, containing pandemics, and revitalizing economies while preserving individual privacy through applied innovation and research at the intersection of technology and public health.

Building on our work in EN and DCT by expanding into new areas. PathCheck Foundation is now a single unified organization with multiple programs in exposure notification, digital contact tracing, vaccination delivery, research, and policy. Visit the program page for full list and more details. 

Each of these programs has been developed and built by teams of passionate social entrepreneurs from the PathCheck community. Please engage with these programs and get involved with the new work. On Slack, you’ll find open, “general discussion” Slack channels for each of these programs and channels named with logical prefixes for each program. We also still have functional groups in areas like community program management and testing. Introduce yourself on Slack if you want to get involved, and we’ll add you to the many private channels as well.  

We also hope that if you have a vision or an idea for a new program or technology that is aligned with the PathCheck mission, you’ll consider starting a working group or launching a new program with PathCheck. 

Into the Future

We've updated the About Us page with a new summary of the vision and mission. You can also find a lot more activity in the Slack workspace, so please take a look. Finally, we did an online event celebrating PathCheck accomplishments and summarizing our strategy. You can watch the video here.

The world needs PathCheck, and I couldn’t be more excited about the plans we have as an organization to expand our positive impact on public health globally.