Gates Foundation Grants: Big Data for Social Good

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded six $100,000 grants to help improve everything from disaster response to municipal services.

By Gregory Piatetsky, Dec 4, 2013.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently funded six projects aimed at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation"Increasing Interoperability of Social Good Data."

The grants, worth $100,000 apiece, were among the 81 that were given as part of the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations. Other grants were awarded for helping female farmers, developing new approaches to neglected tropical diseases, and inventing a next-generation condom.

This is the first time the Gates Foundation has made data part of its Grand Challenges. It received almost 400 applications from 45 countries.

The six data grants went to:

Aligning Data Across Incompatible Geographical Units
H.V. Jagadish, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, US

Take disparate datasets on diverse topics, including education, health, and the environment, which are often reported using different geographical units such as Zip Code or County, and realign them to a common unit so they can be better compared and used. Develop four general techniques for aligning data partitions and apply them to existing datasets in one state in the U.S. so that they can be viewed according to different geographical units.

Bridging the Last Mile: Education Feedback Loops in Nairobi
PI: Wayan Vota, Development Gateway, Inc., Washington, DC, US

Combine data generated by citizens and governments into an interactive interface that can be easily accessed and used by average citizens in order to improve their communities. They will focus on education in three Nairobi slums, and engage the local community and government.

Build Interoperability Into NGO Information Repository
PI: Pushpa Singh, Civil Society Information Services India, Mumbai, India

Develop a common repository to receive, validate, and store information from multiple sources on not-for-profit organizations to make it easier to access support from philanthropic intermediaries.

Create a Foursquare for Development
PI: Vijay Modi, Columbia University, New York, NY, US

Create a universal database to centralize the mapping of social infrastructures, such as schools, clinics, and water points, to improve data accuracy and help to better coordinate aid efforts.

Interoperable Data for Poverty Eradication
PI: Simon Parrish, Development Initiatives Poverty Research Ltd., Bristol, UK

Create a toolkit for the generation of a single interoperable dataset from diverse databases to help more users better assess the impact of resource spending in developing countries.

Open Humanitarian Initiative
PI: Gisli Olafsson, NetHope, Fairfax, VA, US

Work to improve humanitarian information management to better inform decision-making in emergency situations, such as after a natural disaster. In a crisis situation, information on what is needed and what is being done comes from different humanitarian organizations, but these data often do not conform to universal standards or are not made generally available.

Read also Gates Foundation Big Data Grants Stress Open Data, InformationWeek, Nov 22, 2013.