Urban Issues Solved by Big Data Challenges

Published May-23-16

A dengue fever early warning system and a platform to track damaged roads are among the winning ideas of an international innovation competition organized by the United Nations.

UN Global Pulse, South Korea

The Story:

Urban Issues Solved by Big Data Challenges In this day and age, where so much information can be gleaned from both structured and unstructured digital data, we are increasingly seeing problems solved by open innovation approaches, such as big data challenges.

Individuals and groups with different backgrounds, knowledge and experiences are coming together in big data contests, challenges and hackathons to boost innovation in numerous fields. They are solving a wide range of problems by finding new uses for big data, covering everything from making the daily commute a little easier to apps that can potentially save lives.

Innovating with the United Nations

One such forum for this type of innovative and creative activity is the UN's Global Pulse. Its mission is to harness big data to solve important global and local issues by accelerating discovery, development and adoption of big data. It does this through research (studying anonymized social media activity, phone records and internet search behaviors) and through hackathons and open innovation challenges. These are supported and hosted by Pulse Labs in Jakarta, Kampala and New York.

Open Innovation Search for Big Ideas

In 2015, Global Pulse launched The Big Ideas Competition for Urban Issues, hosted by the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. The contest was open to students across Asia and sought new ideas to tackle urban issues related to social protection and welfare, transportation and the environment.

During the 4-week submission period, 208 proposals were received from innovators in India, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia. They were evaluated through a two-stage process. The first stage assessed the novelty of each idea, the data source proposed and the implementation plan.

A total of 21 teams made it through and they were invited to pitch their concepts in person or via webinar to a jury of academics, researchers and external experts. This resulted in the panel choosing ten winners.

Big Data Winners Announced

The Grand Prize of US$ 6,000 was awarded for an idea to enhance the travel experience of citizens on the Seoul metro. It aims to do this by visualizing the indoor atmosphere and by creating a metro unpleasantness index. Among the other winning ideas were:

• A community-based platform to track damaged roads in Yogyakarta in Indonesia
• A dengue fever early warning system for Jakarta
• CCTV Installations for pedestrian accident analysis
• A glass blind control system in skyscrapers

Next Steps

In addition to prize money, the winners received help to develop prototypes of their ideas or to run pilot projects. While in Indonesia, the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning posted the achievements of country's four winning teams on its website, to serve as a source of inspiration for other young innovators.

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