These Are the Winners of the Data for Climate Action Challenge

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This Press Release was first published on Business Wire on 29 November, 2017. 

Global Pulse, the United Nations innovation initiative on big data and data science, and Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC) announced the winning solutions of the Data for Climate Action (D4CA) challenge at an event during COP23, a United Nations climate change conference. The challenge, which was launched earlier this year, is an unprecedented open-innovation competition to harness data science and big data to accelerate climate solutions. The challenge was organized by UN Global Pulse with the support of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and Western Digital.

“The growing volume, velocity, variety and value of data tells a story of unlimited possibilities,” said Dave Tang, senior vice president, corporate marketing and communications, Western Digital. “This challenge is just one example of how we can capture, preserve, access and transform all types of data to unlock solutions to help our communities and our planet to thrive.”

The D4CA challenge demonstrates what is possible when public and private sector organizations partner for social good. Access to large amounts of data – anonymized and aggregated to protect privacy – accelerates the ability to derive insights and develop predictive algorithms that provide more precise solutions.

According to Robert Kirkpatrick, director of UN Global Pulse, “The inspiring innovations that resulted from this challenge are proof of how much we can achieve in enabling climate solutions when climate experts, data scientists and companies work together.”

UN Global Pulse and Western Digital recently announced the winners of D4CA at an event on Data Innovation: Generating Climate Solutions, held during COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The innovation event celebrated the winning projects and brought together business leaders, data scientists, and climate experts for interactive talks, discussions, and demonstrations of data visualizations and innovations.

“The success of this challenge is a testament to the tireless efforts and commitment of the companies we worked with, and even more so, the champions within each of them. If public and private sectors can work to replicate these efforts at larger scale, there is tremendous potential for innovation across all of the Sustainable Development Goals,” added Kirkpatrick.

More than 450 teams of specialized data scientists and researchers from 67 countries applied to participate in the challenge. Of these, 97 semi-finalists worked to develop innovation projects using datasets and tools from 11 different companies.

About the Winning Teams 

Grand Prize

Electro-mobility: Cleaning Mexico City’s Air With Big Data and Climate Policy – A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the Instituto Nacional de Ecología y Cambio Climático received the challenge grand prize for their research into Mexico City’s traffic patterns. The team analyzed data from Waze to evaluate different transportation electrification policies in order to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Thematic Awards

  • Predicting and Alleviating Road Flooding for Climate Mitigation – Using data from mobile operator Orange, a team from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a framework to build the resilience of road networks in Senegal to flooding, which also helps to prioritize road improvements given a certain budget.
  • EMMA: Ecosystem Monitoring for Management Application – A team from the University of Cape Town and the University of Buffalo developed a platform using Planet satellite data to predict and monitor, in near real time, the impact of forest fires in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa.
  • Air Pollution Induced Micro-migrations: Impacts on Consumer Spending – A team from Yale University evaluated shifts in spending patterns related to changes in air quality in Spain, using financial transaction data from BBVA Data and Analytics and weather data from Earth Networks.


Data Visualization Awards

  • A Framework for the Optimization of Winter Wheat Seeding Date – Using weather data, a team based in Turkey developed a framework to determine the best winter seeding date for wheat in the context of climate adaptation, which was then visualized using tools from Tableau.
  • Urban Physiology: A Dynamic Spatial-Temporal Model of Urban Carbon Emissions to Drive Climate Action by Cities – Combining data from Crimson Hexagon, Plume Labs and multiple other sources, a team from New York University created a dashboard that incorporates a high-resolution hourly model of urban carbon emissions to help support decision-making by urban policymakers.


Seven honorable mentions were also awarded to teams from the University of Central Florida; Politecnico di Milano; Stanford University; the Imperial College London; IIASA; the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations and the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak; and the Technical University Madrid. 

To find out more about the challenge visit:

Watch the replay of the event at

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