Shane Hastings : Giving back during Covid-19

Folens digital resources, Cambridge library, Calm, NFL Gamepass, Home School Piano, these are just some of the free services you can avail of during the Covid-19 pandemic and thanks to Shane Hastings, a third year Business Information Systems student in NUIG, you can access all of the free services in one place –

Shane has helpfully broken down the services into categories so whether you’re looking for some sport to watch to help you fill the void, meditation to help clear your mind or you finally want to learn how to play an instrument to help you scratch the boredom itch, all of these options and more can be explored on Shane’s site.

#giveback directory

So, where did the idea come from and how does one person go about creating a database that big?

I saw that obviously Italy was the first country in Europe to go into lockdown, so I saw somewhere online that their own government had started a campaign called the digital solidarity campaign.

On that government website there was a list of services that were free but obviously the vast majority of them were Italian specific and it’s all in Italian, but I thought it was pretty cool. Then I completely forgot about it. Then when our own restrictions started happening, I was stuck at home working and I thought it would be a pretty good idea to put that together. I already had the site made because I was tracking the confirmed cases in Ireland and Northern Ireland and there was no real site three weeks ago where you could go to check all of that information. Now there is about 5 million of them but back then for Ireland specifically there was none, so I just added it to that website and then the give back part of it just completely took off.

Although a lot of time went in to creating the website and its value is obvious, Shane never thought it would prove to be as popular as it is. It also never occurred to him that he could have used the resources for himself and not have shared it for millions of people to enjoy,

It was always for sharing. I mean there’s no way I would have gotten through half of this stuff! Once I started putting it up, I realised people were getting more use out of it than I thought they would. I mean I thought I was just going to post it on twitter, maybe 5 or 6 people would check it out and I’d be like yea that’s cool but I started getting e-mails from a lot of companies and I started to think well ok maybe people are actually getting a use out of this.

But as Shane said the website took off and some of the feedback he’s gotten and the rate at which the site has exploded has been, “insane!”

I think I posted it online on Friday night, the day I launched it and then around Saturday morning/afternoon I got a forwarded WhatsApp message from one of my housemates in Dublin who got it from one of his rugby group chats and I wouldn’t have any mutual friends with these people at all. I just thought it was the most insane thing ever and the same thing happened over and over again and then I started getting e-mails from random companies in Ireland saying this is really cool, we’ve started offering this part of our service for free if you want to mention it on your website and everything like that. Simon Harris and Simon Coveney retweeted it on their twitter accounts as well which is pretty cool. I think by this weekend there should be about a million views on it in about two weeks which is pretty cool.

At the moment Shane has to input each database entry manually which can be quite time consuming, so has he had any time to use his own website?

I’ve used one or two things. There’s Codecademy there which is really good. They offered 10,000 free pro subscriptions to students, so I got on that just to get my spot. I’m going to do some of that this weekend because I’m going to need it for this website!

As part of his course in NUIG, Shane is undertaking an 8-month internship with PwC. He was only two months into his new role when the restrictions on travel were put in place so he’s having to complete his internship back in Galway which although challenging, does offer him a unique perspective and an opportunity that many interns will never have.

It’s been 4 weeks since I left the office. It was grand for the first little while but yesterday now feels like last year. It was really weird because I moved to Dublin to do the internship from Galway so then I had my rent to worry about and I wasn’t too worried at the start because I didn’t know how long it was going to be and to be honest I was kind of excited to work from home because there is no way an intern would have been allowed to do that at all. Now I’m thinking, ok I’m still paying rent for a house in Dublin that I’m not living in and I’m here until August so there is a little bit of that but at the same time the way we’re set up is that everyone can work remotely anyway.

He says that both PwC and NUIG have handled the transition really well and he still feels included despite being stuck at home.

Socialising is such a huge part of university and it’s something which Shane does miss,

Up until last week everything was ok, it was very much this is a bit weird but now this week especially everyone I’ve talked to is exactly the same. They’ve kind of, they’re done. It’s only been 2 weeks really of the harder restrictions and you can kind of understand now why those restrictions didn’t come in until a certain point. People would be cracking up! We’ve done the whole facetime and zoom meetings and discord sessions and gaming and doing whatever but it’s still no compensation for going to the pub! There’s no end in sight.

Despite the toll the restrictions are having on Shane and everyone up and down the country, he is still excited about the future, both for him personally and for the website.

I got an e-mail from a guy who said this [the database] is something that should have existed anyway, and he was saying that I should keep on doing it afterwards because there’s so many free things on it. Once all this is done, whenever that is, please God not too long, I think I’m going to reformat it into something that’s just free resources.

After this I was thinking if I’d even move into something like software development but I’m enjoying the cyber security side of things right now, more the techy side than say GDPR or anything like that because that’s very wordy. I think consultancy in PwC wouldn’t be a bad shout either. You get to do a range of different things with a range of different companies so if you don’t like one project in a few weeks you will probably be working on a new one.

For those actively using the site it’s good to know that it’s not going anywhere any time soon!

So, whether you’re a techno wiz, sports mad, missing school or looking for a distraction, is the place to go.

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