New data collaborations

Uruguay 2100 has been selected as the winner of the Open Climate Data Challenge in Uruguay, a challenge supported by Microsoft and the Open Data Institute

The challenge

In July 2022, the Ministry of Environment and the Agency of Electronic Government and Information Society of Uruguay launched an Open Climate Data Challenge, with support from the Open Data Institute (ODI), the Open Data Charter (ODC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Microsoft. The challenge aimed to promote the use of public climate data to advance transparency, participation and citizen collaboration. It also aimed to develop better public policies to address the impacts of climate change in Uruguay. The challenge was addressed to students, researchers, developers, activists, entrepreneurs, and private and civil society organisations from Uruguay. Prospective participants were invited to present proposals on problems related to climate change. These proposals could consist of things such as development of applications, data journalism, and data-based research projects.  On 1 September 2022 seven applicants presented their projects to a jury as part of a pitch day. After this, five teams were selected to participate in a 10-week incubation stage. Each of the selected teams were granted a seed fund of $2,000, and received training and mentorship from Microsoft and the ODI as part of the incubation process.  This challenge continues and builds on the work that the ODC has been doing to promote the use of open data to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2020, the ODC, the World Resources Institute and the Inter-American Development Bank launched the tool Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to advance climate action, (draft Gitbook version in Spanish) which intends to help governments and their partners share data in the climate space, by identifying key datasets, standards and practices to be implemented. This guide, in turn, was piloted in Uruguay with support of the IDB which led to the publication of the report: Open data for climate action in Uruguay: Towards an openness plan.

The teams

In September 2022, five teams were selected to enter the incubation stage of the challenge: Uruguay Agroecológico, Leon Marino, CEMPRE, Uruguay 2100 and Tendencias del Cambio Climático en Uruguay.

  • Uruguay Agroecológico proposed developing an online platform that could raise awareness among citizens about the ecological footprint of their food consumption, by creating friendly visualisations of open climate data. By doing so, they expected to incentivise environmentally conscious consumption behaviours.
  • The Tendencias del Cambio Climático en Uruguay team proposed developing an investigative journalism microsite to clearly visualise the threats, problems and solutions that Uruguay has found regarding climate change.
  • Leon Marino focused on one particular environmental issue that Uruguay has been facing in recent years: the increasing presence of cyanobacteria in its coasts. This project aimed to collate existing scientific knowledge about the phenomenon and analyse available data to show the relationship between agro-industrial activities, climate change and cyanobacterial blooms.
  • The CEMPRE team proposed to use data on recyclable waste collection circuits and infrastructure, to analyse recyclable waste recovery rates as a contributing factor to climate change mitigation.
  • Finally, Uruguay 2100’s proposed developing a web visualisation application to raise awareness among the Uruguayan population about the impact of climate change on the coastal zone and changes in the ecosystem at a nation-wide level, by presenting an interactive map with different future scenarios.

Each of these teams received seed funding to work on their projects during the incubation stage, with the aim of developing a minimum viable product by the end of it. During this stage, they participated in joint activities, including training sessions and workshops delivered by partners of the project.

Mentorship and support

The ODI participated in the incubation phase of the challenge by providing training and support to the five selected teams.  The ODI ran two online (Spanish language) training sessions for the team participants. 

Webinar: Data Infrastructure and data ecosystem mapping / Infraestructura y mapeo de ecosistemas de datos

The first session focused on data infrastructure and data ecosystems. Participants were introduced to the ODI’s Data Ecosystem Mapping tool and applied it to their projects. They were able to identify the key actors they may need to engage with to deliver their projects. They also identified the possible data sources required, and existing and potential data and value flows. This allowed them to explore how their project could generate value for others, as well as identifying opportunities for project improvements.

Webinar: Introduction to Data Ethics and the Data Ethics Canvas / Introducción a la Ética de Datos y el Data Ethics Canvas

The second session focused on data ethics and introduced the Data Ethics Canvas to participants. The first half of the session used ethical dilemmas to illustrate the importance of identifying and discussing ethical issues early on in data projects. In the second half, teams were introduced to the ODI’s Data Ethics Canvas tool and used it to identify and manage potential ethical issues in their projects. Through this exercise, teams were able to frontload important questions about data handling, the potential impact of their projects, and to start thinking about how to engage people and communities early on, to identify and mitigate any ethical risks.

Anthony Cintron Roman, Director of Data Architecture and Strategy of the Microsoft AI for Good Lab led a talk on data science for social good. Introducing best practices and lessons learned for leveraging data analytics and machine learning to help address important and complex social problems. Through this talk the participants gain understanding of common pitfalls and considerations to keep in mind when working on data science for social good through the AI for Good Lab use cases.

Final results 

On 22 November the five selected teams presented their progress to a jury composed of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, the Agency of Electronic Government and Information Society of Uruguay, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Open Data Charter. After five great presentations, the judges selected Uruguay 2100 as the winner. The judges noted the team’s focus on maybe the most critical issue facing Uruguay today – impact of climate change on the coastal zone – and the impressive visualisations. As the team noted, 70% of the Uruguayan population lives on the coast, where rising sea levels due to anthropogenic climate change threaten a large part of the population, their homes, critical infrastructures, areas of ecological interest and some of the main sources of economic resources. It is hoped that tools like those created by Uruguay 2100 cannot only help with adaptation strategies for climate change, but can also effectively convey the scale and urgency of the need for robust mitigation to combat the climate crisis.  Congratulations to Uruguay 2100. For more information, see: Uruguay 2100

Open data is the key to unlocking the full potential of AI and empowering individuals and communities to take control of their own destinies. By investing in open data, we can democratise AI and enable everyone to access the tools and resources they need to solve the pressing challenges of our time, including climate change. AI has the power to revolutionise our approach to climate adaptation, providing valuable insights and solutions that can help us build a more resilient and sustainable future.

-- Juan M. Lavista, Microsoft Chief Data Scientist, and head of Microsoft AI for Good Lab

Open data ensures transparency, it can enable efficiencies and innovation. It helps give people and organisations access to the data they need to tackle the climate crisis. This challenge aims to encourage the use of open data to help develop better public policies to address the impacts of climate change in Uruguay. We are excited to see how the winning project, Uruguay 2100, develops in the critical area of climate change in the coastal zone.

-- Lisa Allen, Director of Data and Services at the ODI