Hacking EDplanning: 48 hours, 10 countries, 8 solutions for the future of education

13 May 2022

The second edition of the IIEP-UNESCO hackathon was a collective adventure with over 100 participants on the starting line on 6 May. All of them worked hard to imagine digital solutions that could address some of today’s major challenges in education. After 48 hours of intense work – and fun -- the teams presented eight prototypes to the jury. All of them had the same objective: to enable education systems to be better prepared for climate change, or better informed thanks to more accessible educational data. Here are the highlights from Hacking ED planning, co-organized with Latitudes.

"Your participation has already made this event a success" said Karen Mundy, Director of IIEP-UNESCO at the hackathon’s opening, which saw dozens of tech and IT specialists, data scientists, and education experts connected from all over the world to solve the challenges of second edition of Hacking EDplanning.

Climate change as a common thread

Some participants joined the hackathon along the way, while some teams merged and others split up. Despite the twists and turns, everyone gave their time and technical skills for the common good, to help IIEP and governments around the world build more resilient education systems.

"As education planners...we know we need to do more and better to meet the climate change challenge. Not only through education policies and plans, but also through digital technologies, big data, and real-time data processing to provide more agile evidence for decision making,” said Karen Mundy.

"We know that we need to do more and better to meet the challenge of climate change [including] digital technologies, big data or real-time data processing."

Karen Mundy, Director of IIEP-UNESCO

On the collaborative platform the teams collaborated and helped each other day and night throughout the weekend, in an energized, multilingual atmosphere. In parallel to the work carried out by each team, Latitudes and IIEP members from Buenos Aires, Dakar, and Paris provided two daily meetings and coaching sessions.

"By working tirelessly all over the weekend, the participants prepared prototypes that are breaking many barriers, with a great potential to revolutionize educational planning,” said Amélie A. Gagnon, Head of Development activities at IIEP-UNESCO.

Eight prototypes on track

Ahead of the event, IIEP prepared a set of challenges based on real information and issues in the education sector. For some of the challenges, this preparatory work was carried out in close collaboration with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and UNESCO Headquarters.

  • From India, the United States and France, the Gee and Cobra teams have succeeded in classifying the history of floods around schools in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, using prototype applications developed on the basis the data of Google Earth Engine.
  • From their Paris office, the three members of the ClaraVista team have designed a methodology to automatically identify on a map schools that will be affected by rising sea levels as a way to anticipate the displacement of schools.
  • The EPI and LesFrenchies teams developed impressive prototypes of a digital platform to geolocate schools on the island of Saint Lucia to identify shelters and first aid services in the event of hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, or earthquakes.
  • Connected from Argentina, France and Portugal, the members of the Ed and Team have succeeded in visualizing the key indicators of the education sector in Latin American countries, offering great prospects for the SITEAL platform.

"By working day and night all over the week-end, the participants have designed prototypes that have great potential to revolutionize educational planning" ,

Amélie A. Gagnon, Head of Development Activities at IIEP-UNESCO

Meet the winners of Hacking EDplanning

The jury used four criteria to evaluate the eight teams: the technical feasibility of the projects, the innovative and creative dimension, the user-friendliness, and the expected impact on educational management and planning. After the jury's deliberation and a public vote, three teams stood out.

AUDIENCE AWARD: Team
A dashboard to visualise Latin American education indicators

Caption: 
AUDIENCE AWARD: Team

Take a statistical engineer from Chad, an Argentinean academic specializing in education policy and trained in data design, a Cameroonian data analyst - a demographer by training - and a former automotive engineer turned data scientist and you have the most international team of the EDplanning hacking winners. For 48 hours, Team worked hard in three different time zones, trying to improve the accessibility of Latin American education data through the creation of a data visualization interface.

The SITEAL web platform of IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aires provides a set of educational indicators for Latin American countries, broken down by socio-economic variables. While the value of this data for the region's ministries of education is not in doubt, the existing interface makes the data difficult to interpret and compare.

CURRENT INTERFACE BEFORE

 

PROTOTYPE DESIGNED BY TEAM / Hacking EDplanning

AFTER

 

Before participating in Hacking EDplanning, Mahamat Aboubakar, Juan Suasnábar, Rudi Yobol and Narciso Alves did not know each other. It was at the hackathon launch party that they decided to team up and tackle challenge number 6, allowing them all to capitalize on their data analysis skills.

"Initially, not knowing each other was a challenge. Not only did we not all speak the same language, but we also did not have the same level of knowledge of computer languages and software," explained the Team members.

The first step was to agree on a tool that would allow them to develop a viable solution in less than two days. The team finally chose the PowerBI platform to develop its prototype, even if some of them had to learn the tool on the job. "We slept little, thought a lot, discussed a lot among ourselves and with the IIEP-Buenos Aires staff during the weekend, who helped us refine our choices to propose an interface that was as pleasant and intuitive as possible," said the team. The team succeeded, as it was voted for by the audience at the hackathon's closing ceremony.

IMPACT AWARD: ClaraVista
A predictive methodology to identify schools affected by rising waters

Caption: 
IMPACT AWARD: ClaraVista

 

Team ClaraVista is the story of three French data scientists who work in the same data marketing company. For a weekend, they put their computer and mathematical skills to work on a subject that was far removed from their usual missions. In less than 48 hours, they succeeded in creating a methodology to identify the schools that will sooner or later be affected by sea level rise. This will allow ministries of education to anticipate the relocation of affected schools, and even determine where to build new schools to meet the demand as sea levels rise over the next five, ten or twenty years.

For their first hackathon, Ahmed-Amine Homman, Victor Bellaigue and Antoine Inza impressed the jury by developing a solid predictive approach to determine the number of schools, year by year, that will be located below sea level in a given geographical area. Integrated into the cartography of the free software QGIS, the code provided by the team allows the evolution of the situation to be easily visualised through animated maps.  

Caption: 
In blue, schools potentially flooded in 2026

 

"We are very proud to have been able to contribute to such a topic of general interest," says the team members. "It was a real pleasure to work together, to be able to exchange ideas with the other teams throughout the weekend, even if we also had some cold sweats. Of course, there are still improvements to be made, but we are happy to have succeeded in producing a first working version that is well documented, in such a short time," concludes ClaraVista.

INNOVATION AWARD: LesFrenchies
A school geolocation app to help Eastern Caribbean islands in case of emergency

Caption: 
INNOVATION AWARD: LesFrenchies

 

This team impressed the jury with the level of detail in their project. In record time, LesFrenchies team succeeded to lay the groundwork for a tool that could provide real-time emergency information to OECS education planners and citizens.

The three team members met for the first time on the evening of the Hacking EDplanning launch event. All three were interested in the same challenge and quickly realized that their complementary skills would be an asset in solving it. Based in Mauritius, Maéva Rouxel is a web developer. She joined Adrien Frumence, who works as a data scientist for the French government, and Diana Portela, an educational consultant and online training designer from the world of entrepreneurship.

The OECS is an alliance of eleven states located in a geographical area particularly prone to tropical storms, volcanic eruptions, and other natural hazards related to climate change. It is therefore important for local and regional authorities to be able to quickly locate schools and assess whether they are damaged. "We envisioned a solution that would be for both individuals and professionals, scalable and adaptable to other countries," explains the team.

In addition to the possibility of geolocating schools and nearby emergency services, the solution also integrates an educational component to promote prevention among the population, as well as a chatbot to facilitate access to official recommendations in case of emergency. These innovative functionalities struck a chord with the jury.

"We are proud, because we managed to deploy a first complete open-source tool, which costs absolutely nothing. It will be quite easy to continue the project because we have prepared a fairly complete specification with the features that are being developed and those that still need to be developed," conclude LesFrenchies.

"I am very happy with the projects that came out of this hackathon. Imagine a scenario where we get a weather report telling us that something is happening. With this kind of tool, children could be informed of the nearest place to take refuge and the best way to go. This type of solution could allow us to better respond to emergencies, but above all to better prepare for them, as long as it also integrates historical data on climatic events to inform decision makers," said Germain Anthony, Technical Specialist in Education at the Commission of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Eventually, the prototypes created during the Hacking EDplanning hackathon are intended to be developed and implemented as free open tools, for use by ministries of education and educational administrations across the globe.

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