Harnessing the Power of Open Innovation for the Common Good
A new way to use technology to predict areas susceptible to land grabbing.
The Hague, Netherlands
Open innovation is an important tool for solving big problems. One of the oft-used approaches is the hackathon model where brilliant minds from diverse backgrounds work for a concentrated period of time on specific challenges.
In 2018, the Municipality of The Hague in the Netherlands sought to engage innovators from all over the world for its Hackathon for Good. The purpose was to come up with solutions to a variety of complex issues facing the planet today such as fake news, land grabbing and humanitarian disasters.
The hackathon was one of the first projects of the Data Science Initiative, an open innovation accelerator in The Hague to create scalable solutions for peace, justice and security, using data science.
Participants could take their pick of any of the six challenges set by partner organizations. They were:
• Use technology to identify propaganda and inflammatory information in the public
information space - challenge set by the NCI (NATO's Communication and
• Text mining: relationship extraction for the factual analysis database - challenge set
by the International Criminal Court to automate the process of extracting
information from written documents such as NGO reports, witness statements and
• Preparing for emergency: forecasting humanitarian finance - challenge set by World
Vision to help forecast humanitarian disasters and their impact in order to make
emergency funds available in time.
• Using technology to disrupt land grabbing - challenge set by the Asser Institute.
• Identifying and classifying building damage on aerial imagery - challenge set by the
• Develop an algorithm to fix alignment between building locations in Open Street
Map and Bing satellite imagery - challenge set by the Red Cross to resolve
misalignment between Open Street Map data and Bing satellite imagery and shift
the building outlines to fit the satellite imagery as accurately as possible.
A total of 27 teams encompassing people of more than 22 nationalities participated in the open innovation event, spending two days on ideating and developing their concepts.
In first place, team Monkey Code won a cash prize of €10,000 (approx. $USD 11,500 ) for an open source solution based on combining satellite data with recent social media data (such as relevant Twitter hashtags) to predict areas that are vulnerable to land grabbing, the large-scale acquisition of tracts of land.
These acquisitions are made by governments and big companies. Described by some as a new form of colonialism critics claim the process threatens the sovereignty of developing countries and the survival of local communities.
Prizes were also awarded to a way to detect fake news using AI-based imagery and textual analysis and a new means of estimating damage in disaster areas. This system combines drone and satellite imagery to come up with automated and accurate damage estimation.
“This hackathon is a good example of what we want to convey as the city of peace and justice,” said Saskia Bruines, alderman Education, Knowledge Economy, International and Deputy Mayor of The Hague. “Working together with tech entrepreneurs, universities and knowledge institutions on solutions for global problems. It is a special event that I hope we can organize even more in the future!”
Next Story »