New Student Competition Searches for Big Ideas Using Open Data
Hosted by UC Berkeley, the Big Ideas Competition has enjoyed 10 years of tremendous success. It calls on students to propose innovative solutions across a number of categories such as poverty alleviation or social justice. Given the rising popularity and prominence of open data, it seemed appropriate that an Open Data/Open Governance category be created. From there, the Big Ideas @ Berkeley, AidData and USAID collaboration was born. The Open Data/Open Governance category challenges students to leverage publicly available datasets in addressing the world’s most pressing issues. Students can propose projects in the form of anything from mapping visualizations to web platforms, and can span across numerous focus areas such as transparency and accountability, spatial analysis, monitoring and evaluation, and crowd sourcing. This “call to innovate” leverages AidData’s vast expertise in the open data field, UC Berkeley’s rich history of creative thinking and social responsibility with USAID’s commitment to harnessing the intellectual leadership of seven universities across the HigherEducation Solutions Network to further development outcomes. The competition provides students with a new perspective and approach to traditional problems in development. It challenges them to take open data beyond excel spreadsheets and towards tangible tools and solutions. AidData has seen first-hand the great innovations that can come from using open datasets and is eager to learn more. The center’s activities in foreign aid tracking and geocoding platforms highlight just a few ways in which people are beginning to explore the potential of open data.
Competitions like Big Ideas are important not only to support student creativity, but also to challenge AidData and the greater development community. We must continue to push boundaries and to provide perspectives and tools that improve the delivery of development, not just the study of it. Open data’s potential lies in its ability to relay complex information and engage people in the conversation. The Economist has called open data the “new goldmine,” and asserts, “no one has a clue what breakthroughs open data will allow.” We hope that the Big Ideas Open Data/Open Government challenge will begin to uncover this potential, and we are excited to see the innovations that result.