IBM Exec: Call For Code Challenge Is A Partner Training Opportunity

IBM’s Call for Code global challenge is underway, providing partners and developer teams a way to work on technology for social and humanitarian issues while gaining skills in embeddable artificial intelligence software and other IBM technologies and competing for monetary prizes.

The third round of Call for Code runs from July 3 to Aug. 11, Savio Rodrigues – vice president of ecosystem engineering and developer advocacy at Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM – told CRN in an interview. The second round concludes at the end of June. But participants can join no matter the round.

“The benefit here is that we’re helping train a set of developers that then become employees of our partners and our end clients,” Rodrigues said.

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Kuljesh Puri, senior vice president and general manager at IBM partner Persistent Systems – a member of CRN’s 2023 Managed Service Provider 500 with locations in California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere worldwide – told CRN in an interview that IBM giving partners access to Watsonx and other bleeding-edge technology through Call for Code helps partners get ready for mass adoption of those products.ADVERTISEMENT

“If we can adopt the forward-looking technologies much ahead of the game … besides providing developers with the opportunity to to learn those technologies, it also provides the overall ecosystem (with) direction,” Puri said.

Persistent has participated in Call for Code since its start in 2018, when the solution provider used access to IBM Watson, cloud services, machine learning, AI and drones to develop offerings around disaster preparedness, infectious diseases and other calamities.

In another example, for the 2020 Call for Code initiative, Persistent teams used machine learning, computer vision, blockchain and other technologies to develop offerings including remote education and a way to encourage social distancing in public places.

Call for Code has not only helped with internal skilling and morale, but Persistent also views the initiative as helping to recruit new, socially conscious employees, Puri said.

“It does help us externally as well, from hiring new talent, for example, as well as for other customers where we are able to showcase our commitment toward” environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), he said. “Especially in today’s environment, where a lot of our customers are looking at what is your compliance, etcetera, and all that (around) ESG concepts.”

Other participants include global consulting firm EY and distributor Arrow Electronics, according to IBM.

This year, IBM is asking Call for Code participants to address carbon emissions, clean energy, water scarcity and quality, supply chain transparency and traceability, biodiversity protection, waste footprint reduction or food insecurity with their offerings.

Challenge round prizes for developer teams include $10,000 for first place. The grand prize winning developer team receives $50,000, an IBM executive meeting a “personalized IBM AI discussion,” implementation support and open source support from The Linux Foundation, according to IBM.

The third round winners are announced Aug. 31. Round four runs Sept. 11 to Oct. 20, with winners announced Nov. 9. The 2023 “global challenge awards” are Dec. 12. Submissions can receive a maximum of 20 points based on completeness, transferability, effectiveness, efficiency, design, usability, creativity and innovation, according to IBM.

Rodrigues said Call for Code is a “win-win-win” for partners who want to engage employees while teaching them new IBM technology. IBM employees are also available to help participants.

But the products and services developed through Call for Code can have longer-term benefits for a participating partner.

“This isn’t just about – you enter a contest, you win, and we forget about you,” he said. “We continue to work with the winners of the projects, whether it’s engaging with them in the Linux Foundation or providing them guidance and credits with IBM Cloud … it’s not a set it and forget it type of engagement.”

Project Owl, born during the inaugural 2018 Call for Code, continues to launch research spacecraft. And Agrolly, winner of the 2020 Call for Code, continues to work with Brazilian farmers to improve crop yields.

Call for Code participants have also used the program for teaching non-IT staff about coding. This year’s program emphasizes embedable AI libraries and IBM’s Maximo suite of asset monitoring tools, which can help with sustainability. Maximo is also among the 15 or so IBM products identified by the vendor as needing a strong channel sales motion.

“It’s not like they’re going to become developers overnight, but is this the thing that helps them learn a little bit more about AI and demystifies AI for them? Absolutely,” he said.

IBM has made Call for Code four times a year as opposed to once to allow more participation, Rodrigues said. The vendor also has a specific initiative for independent software vendors (ISVs) and startups. Participants receive IBM Cloud credits, access to venture capital firms through IBM Ventures and access to the IBM ecosystem for scaling.

Participants should expect to invest as little time as a weekend for a hackathon or go beyond for a more complex product or service.LEARN MORE: AI  | Generative AI  | Machine Learning  | Cloud Infrastructure  | Cloud Platforms  | Cloud Software 

 Learn About Wade Tyler Millward


Wade Tyler Millward is an associate editor covering cloud computing and the channel partner programs of Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, Salesforce, Citrix and other cloud vendors. He can be reached at [email protected].


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