Last chance to enter the #DigitalAgainstCOVID-19 Hackathon

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Relevant Sustainable Development Goals

Data hackers – here’s your last chance to win USD 10,000! 

The ADB is looking for smart solutions to data gathering problems, and they’re offering substantial support to individuals and teams with innovative ideas.

Amid the confusion surrounding COVID-19, getting hold of relevant and accurate data quickly is proving extremely difficult, and so the bank has laid down a challenge to data experts – find a way to use Big Data to track the pandemic’s impact on economic activity in Asia and the Pacific, without having to wait for official statistics to be released.

The data the ADB is looking for covers four broad sectors: production of goods and services; demand indicators such as consumption and investment; export/import data relating to goods and services; up-to-date price indicators.

The deadline to enter this challenge is June 26th, and you can find all the details here.




But even if your interests and skills don’t involve data hacking, despair not, for the ADB has an extensive ongoing programme to fund and support all entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for digital transformation.


The ADB challenges – setting a “new normal”

COVID-19 has given a new focus to many governments and institutions around the region, not least the ADB. But instead of just concentrating on solving immediate problems, the Bank’s digital team wanted to create strategies for what it believes will be “a new normal”.

“It’s about what’s next,” says Principal Technology Innovation Specialist Marc LePage. “We’re looking at shaping the new future, rather than finding a solution to the ‘now’ problem”.

The way to shape that new future is by creating a digital “sandbox” which combine principles of “hackathons” and crowdsourcing.

“In general for innovation, but even more so for digital innovation, the crowdsourcing approach is something that’s been tested by many different organization and in different contexts,” says LePage, “and it’s basically a way to co-design a solution between people who come from very different backgrounds.”

Whether subject matter experts, digital technology experts, specialists in public service delivery or any knowledge relating to the challenges at hand, the ADB’s sandbox approach seeks to create collaborations that will lead to solutions, which then can be prototyped and tested in the field.

Admission to the sandbox can be as part of a team or as an individual. Solo entrepreneurs would declare their skill set and interest and the ADB’s process will match that individual with others with complementary skill sets, forming a team that will then submit a proposal and pitch a final product.

And the rewards can be significant.


From seed to market

Not only will the ADB grant 10,000 dollars in Seed funding for successful teams, it will open the door to a far more valuable resource: access to ADB networks and ongoing development support in a real world context.

For example, says LePage, one of the winning teams from a previous challenge was taken to Papua New Guinea to test its prototype digital ID system in the toughest of testing grounds – a country with no effective citizen ID system at all.

“And this was adopted by the Central Bank, and it’s now being rolled out within the context of multiple ADB projects there,” says LePage.

This kind of immediate access to real life problems is not just invaluable for product development, it means preferential access to potential markets for the finished item. Because once the product is proven in one situation, it’s in the running to be part of the approved tool kit to solve similar problems in other ADB projects.


Future normality

There are currently 10 active challenges listed on the ADB Challenge site here, and LePage says there are some 40 in total in the current pipeline. For this year, the focus is primarily on topics related to fighting Covid-19, but the broad canvas covers the entire universe of digital innovation.

And in the longer term, the ADB’s goal is not just to run its own challenges, but to partner with others to define the new normal in a region-wide context.

“The bigger picture is that we at ADB want to be able to provide innovative solutions to the governments we were working with,” says LePage. “They could basically throw us a problem which we can then crowdsource for them.”

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Teymoor Nabili

Publisher and CEO, Tech For Impact Asia

Marc LePage

Technology Innovation Specialist, Asian Development Bank (ADB)

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