Phenomenal Global Response to World Bank Innovation Contest
Global open innovation contest to help the World Bank achieve its Millennium Development Goals.
World Bank, United States
“One of the reasons we threw open the doors to our data was that we recognized we don’t have a monopoly on innovation,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “These apps clearly demonstrate how the software development community can harness technology to analyze and tackle some of the world's long-standing problems.”
Zoellic was talking at the conclusion of The World Bank Group’s first open innovation competition. The international financial institution which makes loans to the developing world issued a challenge to software developers and other interested parties to come up with new perspectives on identifying and solving long standing development problems.
Opening up the Data Banks
Using data from the bank’s Open Data Initiative participants were charged with creating applications, games, tools and analysis to help solve any one of the banks eight Millennium Development Goals – these include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, improving mental health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. These philanthropic targets are meant to be reached by 2015.
The World Bank’s Open Data Initiative was launched in April, 2010 to make available a plethora of data sets for free and these included World Development Indicators, Africa Development Indicators and Millennium Development Goal Indicators.
The Apps for Development competition received 107 submissions from 36 countries across every continent, an overwhelming response. More than half of those were from Africa, Asia and Latin America. “It’s inspiring to see nearly one third of the apps coming from Africa, and that software developers and development professionals around the world are applying their skills to address development challenges,” said Aleem Walji, Head of the Bank’s Innovation Practice.
The winning submissions were decided by a panel of experts (such as Craig Newmark of Craigslist, and Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi), although the public was able to vote on the open innovation contest’s website for the Popular Choice Award. A total prize pot of $55,000 was awarded to the winners.
The three main prize winners were:
First Prize - StatPlanet World Bank (Australia): An app that allows users to visualize and compare country and regional performance over time. There are more than 3,000 indicators that cover virtually every aspect of economic, social, and human development.
Second Prize - Development Timelines (France): A web application that aims to help the development community to see how factors such as war and economic booms and busts affect progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
Third Prize - Yourtopia - Development beyond GDP (Germany): An interactive app that calculates how countries are performing according to the priorities you select. It includes a short quiz so that you can choose how important different aspects of development are to you.
And the winner of the Popular Choice Award was WORLD (Macedonia), an app that can choose data at random to generate statements about progress towards Millennium Development Goals.
A Catalyst for Creativity
Overall the contest drew some extraordinarily creative ideas, ranging from games aimed at children to SMS services, apps for iPhones and educational and statistical model tools. It neatly demonstrated how raw data could be used to spur innovation and creativity to help tackle some of the world’s most intractable problems.
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