Accelerating big data for social good with UNICEF

Red Hat Open Innovation Labs and UNICEF Innovation have partnered to improve the usability of its School Mapping Project tool to help improve emergency preparedness and children's lives around the world

This article was updated on Tuesday 26th November 2018 at 10:33 am

It was announced at the Red Hat Summit back in May that the open source solutions provider was collaborating with UNICEF Innovation — the group tasked with identifying, prototyping and scaling technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work for children.

Following this news, there is a big update to the story. The progress the project has made has been staggering; and this has been visualised in a three part video series.

Using several Red Hat open source technologies, including Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and Red Hat Ansible Automation, the teams collaborated to allow data scientists to investigate and explore data sets and to extract knowledge that can be used to help children in emergency situations, whatever they may be.

• Unicef has now mapped over 300,000 schools in 9 countries.
• Unicef has connectivity data for over 120,000 schools in 5 countries.

250 million children do not go to school globally. The ultimate aim of the project is to help provide connectivity to every school in the world. Mapping and connecting schools lets organisations such as UNICEF understand where needs are and allows them to work with partners to connect them to the internet and provide content that will let children have the best possible access to opportunity and choice once they are connected.

Ultimately, collaboration through technology-led to real-world achievements can improve the lives of children around the world

The original article

Today at Red Hat Summit, the open source solutions provider announced its collaboration with UNICEF Innovation – the group tasked with identifying, prototyping and scaling technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work for children.

During the eight-week residency with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs, teams worked together to improve the usability of the School Mapping Project tool to support humanitarian research in real-time.

Big data for good

UNICEF Innovation is using big data and Red Hat open source technology to respond to emergency situations.

>See also: What are the real opportunities for big data in the digital world?

The collaboration focused on advancing the School Mapping Project, including enhancements to Magicbox, a software platform that uses real-time data from both public sources and private sector partners to inform life-saving humanitarian responses to emergency situations.

Using high-resolution satellite imagery and applying data science tools, the project is being developed with a view to mapping every school in the world. The data is generated and visualised through an online platform that can help identify where gaps and information needs are, serve as evidence when advocating for connectivity and help national governments optimise their education systems.

“Our collaboration with Red Hat gave us invaluable new insights into how we can use data science to more quickly and proactively address global crises and risk prevention,” said Erica Kochi, co-founder, UNICEF Innovation.

>See also: The top five data trends coming in 2018

“By gaining these critical insights into the needs of at-risk populations, we can make more informed decisions about where to focus resources and how to protect vulnerable children. This collaboration has moved our work forward in these areas immensely – and reaffirms our joint belief in the power of open source tools to develop innovative solutions that positively impact children.”

Open source for good

Ultimately, it is designed to help UNICEF Innovation make decisions more quickly, ease the integration of new data, and improve emergency response and resilience against natural disasters and crises.

Focused on using open source solutions, UNICEF Innovation used several of Red Hat’s technologies, including Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and Red Hat Ansible Automation.

>See also: The 4 secrets successful CDOs will know about data

UNICEF Innovation plans to use the insights provided by Magicbox as the base layer for the School Mapping Project to help identify and address connectivity and infrastructure gaps to improve access to information and education.

John Allessio, vice president of Global Services at Red Hat, said: “Working alongside UNICEF to make their vision a reality, using DevOps methodologies and open source technologies, shows the potential of open source innovation. What is so exciting about Open Innovation Labs residencies is that in a short time we can create a solution to solve an organisation’s issues. In our collaboration with UNICEF, we not only developed a solution, but a solution that can positively impact children around the world.”

>See also: Data scientists: What they do and why businesses need them

Innovation Lab

Launched in 2016, Red Hat Open Innovation Labs helps customers integrate people, methodology and technology to catalyse innovation and solve business challenges in an accelerated fashion by working collaboratively in an immersive, residency-oriented lab environment with the Red Hat experts.

Through hands-on instruction, teams can also learn how to adopt agile development methodologies, experience DevOps, and get immediate and direct experience with open principles and open culture that underlie many open source communities.


Information Age will be at Red Hat Summit all week, covering all the latest news and trends surrounding open source and digital transformation for the enterprise

Avatar photo

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...