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Microsoft and Open Data Institute Announce a Global Education Open Data Challenge for Teams and Individuals

Microsoft and Open Data Institute have announced a global challenge to better understand the relationship between broadband penetration and education

Microsoft and the Open Data Institute (ODI) announced the launch of an Education Open Data Challenge to shine light on the relationship between broadband access and K-12 (ages 5 to 18 years old) education outcomes. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Education Open Data Challenge will help educators and research organizations better understand the potential long-term impact the ongoing disruption to traditional learning will have on the world’s most vulnerable learners, said a statement from Microsoft.

Microsoft and the ODI are encouraging teams that wish to participate in the challenge to help generate innovative solutions to close the digital divide in K-12 education to go here to learn more. The winning team will be invited to elect a non-profit organization of their choice to receive a £50,000 award, with the runners-up electing non-profit organizations of their choice to receive £30,000 and £20,000 awards.

The challenge is open to teams and individuals based globally. Participants will receive access to tools and resources from Microsoft, the ODI, and BroadbandNow, as well as data made available for the first time as part of this challenge:

Participants will have access to a more granular version of Microsoft’s US broadband usage data, this time with differential privacy applied. Microsoft will make available documentation that demonstrates the impact that applying differential privacy has had on the data.

The ODI will provide access to several eLearning modules on Open Data Essentials, Finding Stories in Data, Guidance for data users on data licensing and How to anonymize datasets for participants who wish to contribute their own data, as well as mentorship. Participants are also able to access free MS Learn training resources and training modules.

From BroadbandNow, participants will be able to access U.S. broadband terrestrial provider data.

The use of privacy-preserving technologies will become more prevalent as organizations seek to collaborate across the spectrum of data. The datasets that will be made openly available with the challenge will help participants to assess and understand the effect that technologies such as differential privacy can have on data insights and analysis.

Participating teams will be asked to identify gaps in digital infrastructure that affect the delivery of education services online, pinpoint potential impacts on learning outcomes, and suggest innovative and realistic solutions to address these gaps in a cost-efficient way. Some of the questions the challenge seeks to answer include:

  • How do students access remote learning, especially those who may not have easy access to digital infrastructure (e.g., technology and internet connectivity)?
  • What level of digital access to learning do students from disadvantaged groups have, relative to more advantaged groups?
  • What is the relationship between levels of digital skills and learning outcomes for different demographics?

Participants will have four months to complete the challenge from the opening date. Individuals and teams interested in participating in the challenge can learn more and register interest on the official website. Once registered, individuals will be invited to attend dedicated activities to preview the data, learn more about it from the involved partners, and get equipped on how to best use it ahead of the public release on 10 December 2020.

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