Get started with the Big Data for Social Good Challenge

Vice President of Growth, IBM Analytics, IBM

In 2011 IBM celebrated its centennial year: 100 years as a business. The biggest point of emphasis on the company’s one hundredth anniversary was IBM’s commitment to supporting communities and society. In fact, IBM called 2011 its Centennial Celebration of Service.

In that year alone, more than 3.1 million volunteer hours were pledged by IBM employees and retirees—the equivalent of more than 1,070 years of service by 300,000+ volunteers in 120 countries.

From 2001 through May of 2014, IBM volunteers provided relief in 45 disasters across 24 countries—everything from handing out food at shelters after a flood to working with government agencies to use mobile phone data to identify missing people after an earthquake. And most recently IBM volunteers are leading a community effort to help identify, inventory and classify all open data sources related to the Ebola outbreak.

Supporting the social initiatives important to IBM employees and their families and friends is important to IBM. Now, big data technology is giving IBM and its people another opportunity to serve our communities and the world.

Gilberto Dimenstein, a journalist and educator in Brazil, talks about how IBM helped a school that was on the verge of being closed because of violence and drug trafficking use information to survive. “IBM brought us the knowledge of how to use information to connect people,” he says. “The community involvement, the family involvement could be enhanced using information, using connection. The school has been changed—this kind of model is being replicated in 150 schools in Brazil.”

On Monday, November 10, IBM invited developers to join its culture of service by participating in the Big Data for Social Good Challenge—accepting submissions for applications that use Hadoop to solve real world problems using big data and ingenuity. There’s $40,000 in prizes for winning submissions, but the potential for impacting our society is far greater by delivering applications to address many of today’s civic challenges.

In fact, there is an emerging category of organizations using data for social good. One of them, DataKind, creates teams of pro bono data scientists to work with nongovernmental organizations to collect, analyze and visualize the data that could help them make the world a better place.


Jake Porway, the founder of DataKind, once pondered, “What if someone could ask an app where they can find clean water?” He then described events called “data dives,” in which he hoped that “by bridging these two communities—data scientists and non-profits—we might get to live in a better world.”

It’s important for IBM to play a role in this. It’s in our bones, so to speak. When Thomas Watson Sr. founded IBM he said, “A company should not just make a profit, but make a difference.”

Come join hundreds of others who, like you, want to work for the common good. We’re looking forward to getting together with you, and many developers and data scientists around the world. Start today by submitting your proposals at the Big Data for Social Good Challenge. As it says on the website, “We’ll provide the platform, data and civic problems to get you started. You bring your magnificent coding skills, imagination and thirst for change.”

Participate in the #Hadoop4good challenge and change the world