The data-driven innovation revolutionising development


Photo: Peace Informatics Lab Team 

Heard about M-Pesa, the smart app for ‘dumb’phones? This money transfer app has taken Kenya by storm. In a country whereswathes of the population are excluded from banking as we know it, the touch ofa few buttons allows for easy money transfer, enabling urban Kenyans to support
relatives in rural areas, for example.

How about Ushahidi? Developed in 2008 to map post
election violence in Kenya, the website collects data from crowds via SMS and
visualises hot-spot areas. It’s now being put to good use; collecting data on
street harassment in Egypt and giving victims a voice.

These are just a
few examples of the way technological innovation is empowering people across
the globe and changing the world as we know it.

With this is
mind, Leiden University’s Peace
Informatics Lab
asked the following question:

What can happen
when you throw together aspiring Computer Scientists with budding Gender
Experts, emerging International Relations specialists with Business students?

The event:
‘The Rapid Innovation Challenge: Responsible
Data for a Better World’ –
run in collaboration with Cordaid, UN Global
Pulse and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leading the data revolution.

The task:
bring together critical thinking with techie know-how, to design data-driven
solutions for humanitarian response and the new sustainable development goals.


Photo: Peace Informatics Lab Team

Challenges included:

the unconnected to actionable information

national data with local data

platforms for multi-stake holder analysis to increase connectivity between
citizens, international NGOs, national governments, volunteers and more! 

And the results?
A week of discussion, debate, ideas picked-up, dropped, re-worked and
re-imagined.  Prototypes for diverse
data-driven solutions. Drone technology for post-disaster mapping. SMS surveys
to collect on the ground opinions; publicly-shared interactive maps for
transparent results.

This is just the
start. The data revolution has begun.

Sarah Pelham

Sarah is working on Women, Peace
& Security issues in the Conflict Transformation Team at Oxfam Novib. A feminist at heart, she is pursuing her
Masters at Utrecht University. Growing up in England has given her the rare ability
to thrive in Dutch weather.


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