16 October 2015

NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Student Wins First Prize in United Nations #VisualizeChange World Humanitarian Summit Data Challenge

NEW YORK, 16 October (Office of Information and Communication Technology) — The United Nations today announced that Cristian Felix has won the #VisualizeChange data challenge, which aims to engage the public in sharing ideas to reduce human loss and suffering from crisis by looking at data in new ways.  The competition is part of the activities linked to the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit and is hosted on the Unite Ideas platform.

Mr. Felix, a post-graduate engineering student at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, was awarded the competition’s top prize for his submission “WHS Explorer”, a tool that allows for more meaningful insights into World Humanitarian Summit data by identifying the most frequent topics — such as gender or a specific country — or the words most relevant and significant to a specific topic.  For instance, words like “girl”, “refugee” and “women” are highly relevant in documents from Jordan, while “disaster” ranks top in documents about Fiji.  Such insights could provide a richer view of humanitarian issues and how they differ across the world.

Leading up to the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, convened by the United Nations as a collaborative effort to find new ways to save lives and reduce hardship around the globe, people worldwide shared their ideas through the #VisualizeChange data challenge.  Entries were judged on originality, artistry, understanding of the data, clarity of information and usefulness.  Mr. Felix will present his work at the World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation in Geneva, Switzerland, and the finalists will be showcased at related events worldwide.

The initiative is the second challenge issued by Unite Ideas, a big data crowdsourcing platform developed by the Office of Information and Communication Technology to facilitate collaboration among academia, civil society and the United Nations, and to mobilize data scientists and software developers worldwide to help tackle the complex issues faced by the Organization and its Member States.

While part of Unite Ideas is a private space for collaboration with universities, another part of the platform, launched in July, assists United Nations offices, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which manages the Summit, with data analysis and visualization challenges.

Academia, the general public and private companies responded to the Unite Ideas challenges with more than 35 open source solutions, many of which will be used by the United Nations or shared with Member States.

“The Unite Ideas platform invites the global community of data scientists to partner with the United Nations in our mandate to harness the power of data analytics and visualization to uncover new knowledge about human rights, environmental issues and political affairs,” said Atefeh Riazi, United Nations Chief Information Technology Officer and Assistant Secretary-General.  “The response to the Unite Ideas challenges shows that the concept works, that many people out there are keen to volunteer to help the [United Nations] solve challenges in this way, and that the results obtained are in fact useful.”

For more information, please contact Lambert Hogenhout at e-mail:, or visit

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