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Data Challenge
Today, April 6, 2021, l'Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab are happy to announce the awardees of the #Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge, following a call for innovative proposals that ran from December 15, 2020 through February 5, 2021. The challenge seeks to address the social, economic, and health challenges resulting from COVID-19 in Africa through new collaborations around non-traditional, non-statistical datasets.

With the input of a panel of outside data experts, AFD and its partners reviewed the over 80 proposals submitted, and selected the following:

  • Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Mali): Researchers will seek to quantify missed opportunities for Covid-19 screening in vulnerable populations (such as people with HIV).
  • Université Alioune Diop de Bambey (Senegal): A university team will investigate how the crisis impacted the social, economic, and technical circumstances of students pursuing higher education and which action can be taken to mitigate negative effects. 
  • Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control (Nigeria): This project will seek to understand which social, economic, and political factors influence individual knowledge and perception of Covid-19 among Nigerians and how they shape population behavior with regard to safety protocols.
  • Code for Africa (Nigeria, Senegal): Participants will develop an “African Covid-19 Vulnerability Index” in coordination with the African CDC to give leaders up-to-date and granular resources about the public to support their decision-making. 
  • The Population Council of Kenya (Kenya, Zimbabwe): The research team will examine how perceptions of Covid-19 and vulnerability to it influence the adoption of protective behaviors and to what extent the perceived vulnerability and adoption of protective behaviors differ by population sub-groups. 
  • Institut National d'Hygiène Publique (Côte d'Ivoire): This project will seek to understand how organizations can best obtain information on the spread of acute respiratory tract infections and how organizations can use different datasets to enhance existing disease surveillance and early-warning systems in a way that is proactive and sustainable long-term. 
  • Data Science Institute - INPHB CI (Côte d'Ivoire): The Data Science Institute will use anonymized social media data to seek to understand public needs and concerns about measures taken amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including curfew and lockdown restrictions, with an aim of reducing mistrust of authorities. 

“Though there’s been much progress around the world to develop collaborative data ecosystems that can improve people’s lives, there are still significant gaps. By funding this new and innovative work, we hope to build the data infrastructure needed to tackle the pandemic and other dynamic societal threats,” said Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder and chief research and development officer of The GovLab.

“Creating an environment to enable multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaboration for innovation to provide actionable strategic insights and contextual intelligence that leverage on data to address issues related to the Covid-19 crisis is at the core of this initiative”, said Thomas Melonio, Executive Director of Innovation, Research & Knowledge (AFD).  Peter Addo, AFD data specialist and Head of Datalab, echoed this point, noting, “This initiative is part of AFD’s effort to prioritize investments in data and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to contribute to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy in Africa.” 

“The important number of proposals received is a genuine proof that there is a real need for data related support in Africa,” said Béata Suszterova, project coordinator within Expertise France. “The selected proposals are all very relevant and we are looking forward to working with our African counterparts on this data challenge”.

In addition to a total funding of €567,000 for all winning projects, laureates will have access to a Situation Room, an online meeting place where funded researchers and select data experts can meet to discuss their current work, brainstorm solutions to major challenges, and share findings. This resource will enable peer-to-peer learning and broaden the impact and reach of each individual project. Data-driven professionals interested in providing support can send an email inquiring at datastewards@thegovlab.org

AFD and its partners will remain engaged and help manage the Situation Room. It will also communicate outcomes as they emerge. Organizations are encouraged to visit the official website for more information on forthcoming work.

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