Open Data Contest
In conjunction with International Open Data Day, the first weekend in March this year saw the return of the Third Annual Open Data Competition to Dalhousie. Organized by the Province of Nova Scotia, the School of Information Management (SIM) and the Rowe School of Business, the event saw twenty-eight teams compete using Nova Scotia open data to create apps, models, visualizations, dashboards and more to address issues affecting Nova Scotia residents. The event was sponsored by the Government of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie Faculty of Management, ESRI, IBM and Socrata.
The weekend got off to a strong start bright and early Saturday morning as teams met with mentors and got started on their projects. SIM MLIS student and competition participant Dan Phillips noted, “it was difficult to decide which was the most effective use of our time: crunching numbers and writing code, or chatting with mentors as we wrestled with our problem.” By early afternoon on Sunday the Rowe building was buzzing with energy as teams prepared to present their work.
Judges Sandra Cascadden (Associate Deputy Minister and CIO, Internal Services), Stephen Greene (Development Practice Leader, Halifax CIC, IBM), Thozamile Javu (PNS Innovation Garage Manager, IBM Services) and Brit Perry (Account Manager, Tyler Technologies Inc.) had their work cut out for them, as team numbers jumped from twenty-four on Saturday up to twenty-eight total by Sunday. Pressure was on, with a tight schedule and a strict two-minute cap on presentations, but teams rose to the challenge and presented a rich variety of creative and innovative solutions using the tools and data at hand.
After an exciting slew of presentations, it was time for lengthy deliberations. Om Agarwal took home first prize under his team name Prognomatrix after wowing judges with an AI tool that used deep/machine learning algorithms and frameworks to diagnose breast and skin cancer with impressive accuracy. Second prize went to Yingda Guo and Matt Richard, a.k.a. Data Boys, whose work focused on a web app aimed at predicting seasonal disease prevalence. Team 3, made up of Fasuyi Morounkeji, Sadman Hoque Sadi, Sarbottam Thapa, took third prize for their work on an app geared toward reducing food wastage and food insecurity in the province by notifying foodbanks of food surpluses nearby. The People’s Choice, as voted by contest participants, went to Tina Roberts-Jeffers (a.k.a Take 2) and her app called On Second Thought which was designed to enhance tourism in Nova Scotia by giving both visitors and residents new ideas about ways to explore the province.
Closing remarks made by Minister of Internal Services Patricia Arab lauded the creativity and problem-solving skills of participants as well as the power of open data. The Nova Scotia open data portal has been active since 2016, and these teams demonstrated what kind of original and exciting solutions can be created from simple datasets when motivated and thoughtful minds are brought together. Dan Phillips (current MLIS student) echoed these sentiments, saying, “there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the NS Open Data repository – and it’s not just there on the competition weekend. I’m already digging around for interesting datasets to use next year.” Issues ranging from public health and pollution to immigration and tourism were all addressed.
The power of information is a central value for SIM, and the results of the Open Data Competition further illustrate the vital nature of inspiring young professionals to recognize the possibilities for public good when skills, tools, data and passion are combined. SIM Director Sandra Toze would also like to add a final thanks to all the mentors from the Faculty of Management, Dalhousie Libraries and across the University who helped make this an excellent event.