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Daily Archives: Apr 13, 2015

The Data for Development (D4D) Challenge Senegal – a big data open innovation competition

  • Five research projects selected from categories spanning health, agriculture, transportation/urban planning, energy and national statistics
  • Five additional research projects selected for their contribution to the creative or scientific methodology or application of big data open innovation, such as big data ethics, anonymisation, data science, data crossing or data visualisation
  • Three post-challenge projects to be launched relating to health, national statistics and agriculture, backed by donors and partners to continue work and bring tangible and enduring benefits to the people of Senegal

The Data for Development (D4D) Challenge Senegal – a big data open innovation competition

This year’s D4D Challenge Senegal was launched under the patronage of the Senegalese Ministry of Higher Education and Research and ran from 2014 to April 2015. In conjunction with Sonatel and Orange (, anonymised data samples were extracted from Sonatel’s mobile network, under the recommendations of the Commission des Données Personnelles of Senegal (Privacy Protection Commission), and made available to over 250 international research laboratories. 250 universities registered for the challenge but the data was made available only to the 150 who worked on it. From these 150 teams, close to 60 high quality projects were submitted for the final competition.

The challenge was organised around five core questions and themes relating to health, agriculture, transportation/urban planning, energy and national statistics; identified with the Senegalese Ministries or partner institutions, and designed specifically to challenge organisations to produce solutions for the purpose of societal development and the welfare of the population in Senegal. Special consideration was also awarded for progress made in data sciences, anonymisation, big data ethics and to foster greater involvement with local organisations and promote education in this growing field.

40% of the submissions received aim at improving transportation and urbanism in Senegal. Scientists also focused heavily on health with over 20% of submissions in this area. 15% of the submissions focused on national statistics with the remaining 25% spread between agriculture, energy, data visualisation and anonymisation.

2014-15 D4D Challenge Senegal Winners

The first prize goes to the University of Manchester and the Santa Fe Institute, with support from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, winning US$5000.00 (approximately 4610.00 euros) for using mobile phone data for electrification planning. All other prize winners receive US$2000.00 (approximately 1840.00 euros) each.

In addition, three projects will be launched relating to health, national statistics and agriculture that have the backing of donors and partners to continue the work proposed in the challenge to deliver tangible and enduring benefits to the people of Senegal.

For the challenge itself, Orange and Sonatel provided its call data records (CDRs) covering 2013, anonymised through an intensive two-step process: these records were firstly anonymised locally in Dakar to remove all personal information; secondly, Orange and Sonatel transmitted the anonymised CDRs to its labs in Paris through a secured transfer, where the data was then packaged to prepare three data sets for the D4D challenge:

•          Matrix of Calls between antenna

•          Samples of customers’ mobility at the level of the 127 prefectures

•          Additional small samples of mobility at the level of antenna

The competition was overseen by an External Ethics Panel comprising 12 members from across academia, business, public and non-profit organisations and the final winning entries were selected by the D4D Committee.

This year’s winners of the D4D Challenge Senegal and ethics mention were announced at the NetMob Conference in Boston at the MIT MediaLab on 10 April 2015.

See Appendix 1 on (link) for full details of winners.

Energy Prize + First Prize:

Using mobile phone data for electricification planning

The University of Manchester , Sante Fe Institute, with support from the

Université Cheikh Anta Diop

Agriculture Prize:

Genesis of millet prices in Senegal: the role of production, markets and their failures

Université catholique de Louvain

Health Prize:

Uncovering the impact of human mobility on schistosomiasis (a water-based parasitic worm infection)

Politecnico di Milano and Stanford University

National Statistics Prize:

Virtual Networks and Poverty Analysis in Senegal

University of Buffalo

Transport Prize:

National and Regional Road Network Optimisation for Senegal Using Mobile Phone Data

Delft University of Technology

Data Crossing Prize:

“Using mobile phone data for Spatial Planning simulation and Optimisation Technologies (SPOT)”

University d’Avignon, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Laboratorie de Traitement de I’Information, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, Zurich, (ESPACE), Avignon, France ; CNRS, France

Data Visualisation Prize:

O05, Data for Development Reloaded: Visual Matrix Techniques for the Exploration and Analysis of Massive Mobile Phone Data

University of Technology, SynerScope BV, Sensemaking Fellowship

Practical Application Prize:

Mobile Data as Public-Health Decision Enabler: A Case Study of Cardiac and Neurological Emergencies  

Old Dominion University, University of Bordeaux, University of Tunis,  Aalto University

Scientific Prize + Ethics Mention:

Construction of socio-demographic indicators with digital breadcrumbs Freie University Berlin, Humboldt-University Berlin

Professor Vincent Blondel, University of Louvain, Research Affiliate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and Chairman of the ‘D4D’ Committee, said: “One of the main hurdles still hindering progress in the field of Data for Development is enabling access to, and sharing, anonymous data in responsible ways that bring open innovation opportunities to local ecosystems. The approach demonstrated by Orange and Sonatel with D4D – by enabling multiple actors, enabling progress in a number of fields and identifying real potential for society impacts – has been really remarkable.”

Alioune N’diaye, CEO, Orange Sonatel, added: “We would like to sincerely thank the community of researchers who got involved in this adventure, the project partners and the Senegal Ministers who have agreed to take part by submitting their questions, as well as those who from near or far contributed to making ‘D4D Senegal’ such a success. It shows how the ICT sector can help the development of our country. It will be a starting point for aiding the development of Senegal and helping our fellow citizens to live a better life.”

Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of Global Pulse, United Nations, concluded: “A High Level Panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a « Data Revolution » to achieve sustainable development. Indeed, there is a tremendous opportunity in unlocking Big Data and utilising it alongside with traditional data to reveal new insights that can help combat societal challenges such as poverty, disease, and climate resilience. To deliver on the promise of big data for development, we must come together to learn to harness it safely and responsibly. D4D Senegal represents a milestone in mobilising a data revolution for sustainable development in Africa. All of the partners and participants of D4D Challenge Senegal embarked together on an effort that has yielded brilliant innovations which will inspire countless others to build upon.

As part of NetMob 2015 (, a school  hackathon was organised by MIT for IT students in parallel with MIT students in Boston, students gathered by in Paris with the support of Orange researchers, and by Sonatel in Dakar (also called D4D datathon). The School Hackathon will be run in parallel on the three continents, a first of its kind, thanks to Orange Cloud for Business securely hosting the data sets and providing processing power.

For more information on the D4D Challenge, please visit

A record 925 applications from 41 countries representing the continent received for IPA 2015 from Africa’s most talented innovators

What do an environmentally-friendly minicab, a water distillation system and a fire alert detector have in common?  They all represent outstanding innovation talent across Africa, applied for the celebrated Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) ( award this year, and are now being considered for the grand share prize of US$150 000! Since its inaugural launch in 2011, IPA has gathered great momentum, and is now recognized for leading the innovation frontier in Africa by rewarding innovators for their home-grown, market-led innovations that contribute to Africa’s growth, development and prosperity.

This year, AIF received a record 925 applications from 41 countries for its prestigious IPA awards, surpassing the previous year’s entry record of 903. The awards ceremony will be held on 12-13 May in, Skhirat, Morocco, a country fast trending as an innovation hub in Africa. The African Innovation Foundation (AIF) ( is partnering with the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy to host the 4th edition of IPA which has received eminent patronage from His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy (, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy for Morocco expressed his enthusiasm to be co-hosting the IPA 4th edition in Morocco: “We have a strong commitment with AIF to unlock the innovation potential of the continent. The ambition is to make Africa a juncture of innovative and prosperous nations.” By focusing on the unchallenged role of innovation in the development of economies, Mr. Elalamy added that “in Morocco, the commitment to promote research and innovation mobilizes both the government and private sector decision makers who join their efforts to make the national innovation system a force for development.“  

This year’s finalists showcase a diverse range of innovations from agriculture, to education and e-health. The 10 nominees for IPA 2015 are:

            –Adnane Remmal, Morocco: A patented alternative to livestock antibiotics.  This is a composition of natural phenolic molecules with anti-microbial (anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal) properties. The natural, innovative formula reduces the health hazard to cattle and humans, and prevents the transmission of multi-resistant germs and possible carcinogens through meat, eggs and milk to humans at no extra cost to farmers.

            –Alex Mwaura Muriu, Kenya: Farm Capital Africa is a well developed risk sharing agri-business funding model that draws in investors for a share of farming profits. The initiative identifies, screens and shortlists full-time farmers with small holdings and helps them devise farming plans to attract potential investors who earn profits over time. This is a viable solution to address the inability of committed, small scale African “agripreneurs” — who lack collateral and credit history to access traditional financing—from expanding their operations. An attractive farming initiative and investment option for those with extra capital, benefiting both small scale farmers and investors.

            –David Gluckman, South Africa: Lumkani fire detection. An off-the-shelf fire detection device and alert service that uses radio frequency (RF) transmission technology suitable for informal dwellings. In the event of a fire, the device triggers an alarm to alert the family. Within 20 seconds, the device transmits a signal that sets off heat detectors in a 60 meter radius to elicit a community-wide response to the fire. This device prevents fires from ravaging high population density communities and boosting community mobilization efforts.

            –Jean Bosco Kazirukanyo, Burundi: New type of cement “OSP” that protects waters against carcinogenic lubrication oil spills. A new formulation of cement that can be sprinkled on fresh or old lubricant and oil spills. The cement chemically reacts with the contaminants to form tiny lumps that can be easily removed and deposited in designated plastic bins before being transported to concrete plants where they can be used as concrete additives. This innovation effectively contains and recycles ecologically harmful oil spills that are currently being disposed of in an unsustainable manner across Africa, causing huge ecological damage.

            –Johann Pierre Kok, South Africa: Scientific engineering educational box: ‘Seebox’. A scientific engineering educational box that allows children to enjoy a practical and experimental way of learning the sciences and electronics, and measuring almost anything electronic or scientific. ‘Seebox’ also offers short videos explaining what is being measured. This tool addresses the shortage of electronic and scientific professionals, and affords children the opportunity to learn first-hand the principles of science and electronics by building, measuring and experimenting.

            –Kyai Mullei, Kenya: M-changa, also known as E-harambee. A mobile application that empowers individuals and organizations to initiate and manage fundraisers via sms or web devices in an efficient and cost effective way. Combining mass market mobile communication with money transfer technologies, m-changa allows users to solicit support for a cause, track contributions, and withdraw funds using their mobile phones without relying on internet connectivity. This innovation brings the benefits of mobile technology to all Africans, integrating unique aspects of African culture with technological innovation.

            –Lesley Erica Scott, South Africa: Smartspot TBcheck.  Smartspot’s flagship product, TBcheck examines the accuracy of machines used to detect TB diagnosis. They are designed to assess whether these machines are functioning optimally. Unlike other products, TBcheck is easy and safe to use and can be delivered to laboratories safely and economically. This will make diagnosing TB far easier and might go a long way in curbing the TB epidemic in Africa. Today TB is second only to HIV and AIDS as a leading cause of death in the continent.

            –Marc Arthur Zang, Cameroon: The cardio-pad.  An affordable tablet that records and processes the patient’s ECG (heart signal) before transferring it to a remote station using mobile phone networks. The device can be used in village hospital and clinic settings in the absence of a cardiologist.  ECG results can be downloaded on a tablet by the cardiologist. The examination is then interpreted using cardio-pad’s computer-assisted diagnostic embedded application, then results and prescription transmitted to the nurse performing the procedure. This will ensure effective monitoring of heart patients living in rural areas with limited or no access to cardiologists.

            –Neil Du Preez, South Africa: Mellowcabs. This is a suite of technologies that includes recovering the kinetic energy that is typically lost in the braking process, converting it into electricity and storing it. Other associated innovations include hydrogen fueled Mellowcabs, adaptable, renewable body shells and an app to book cab rides that can be paid for with cash or credit. Its user-friendly services include tracking the cab’s location, wifi access and mobile charging during the ride. The minicab service fills the gap for commuters who need organized, safe and affordable micro transport within a three mile radius. This environmentally-friendly taxi service also eases traffic congestion in cities without causing pollution.

            –Samuel O. Otukol, Uganda: Water distillation system and process (dsp). This innovation proposes an alternative source of viable drinkable water in areas of water shortage or where only sea water is available. Salty water is evaporated at low temperatures (30 to 50 degrees Celsius) and then condensed into fresh water at lower costs than incurred using reverse osmosis. The proposed process can also use solar energy in remote areas. It helps water shortages in drought-stricken areas, or where existing desalination methods have proved ineffective. 

The panel of highly qualified IPA judges examined all entries through a rigorous process which included validation by technical experts. The calibre of entries this year was particularly impressive, says Chairman of the IPA 2015 selection panel, McLean Sibanda, noting that IPA has continued to gain importance and greater recognition each year, seen in the quality and depth of applications: “Shortlisting the top 10 was no easy task as each of the top 25 innovations are a response to a need or challenge within our communities. The IPA is indeed an important platform – not only for showcasing Africa’s ability to innovate to address its own challenges, but also for celebrating Africa’s ingenuity”.

Three winners will be chosen and announced in a glittering ceremony to be held in Skhirat, Morocco on 13 May 2015. The US$150 000 cash prize is shared between the winners, with the most outstanding innovation receiving US$100 000, and two prizes of US$25 000 for innovation with the highest social impact and best business potential respectively. 

Reflecting on IPA achievements in catalysing the innovation spirit in Africa, Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, AIF and IPA Founder said: “The IPA has come a long way since its inception in 2011. The first major milestone was achieved in 2012 when the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) passed a resolution to promote an innovation society for Africa’s socio-economic transformation. Today the IPA is playing a fundamental role in showcasing the continent’s immense potential to become thriving innovation economies.  Year after year, the innovations that are presented for the IPA comprise high-value African solutions with positive socio-economic impact, and this year is no exception.”

Besides rewarding excellence in innovation on 13 May 2015, Skhirat will be showcasing yet more innovation through an innovation marketplace, an innovative Ideas Machine workshop targeting young visionaries and a press conference. With an impressive line-up of CNBC coverage, quality entertainment from Africa’s number 1 music extraordinaire, Youssour N’Dour, an innovator himself, and Lerato Mbele, presenter of Africa Business Report on BBC World News compering this ceremony, IPA 2015 promises to be the calendar event of Africa.