REDWOOD CITY, CA (March 14, 2023) — Omidyar Network has chosen among hundreds of applications 15 teams to receive the inaugural Future of Data Challenge Awards. In total, the social change venture is awarding $1.1 million to teams, helping to prioritize fairness, inclusion, empowerment, and collective value in the data culture. Ten teams will receive $100,000 prizes and five additional organizations will receive $20,000 to put toward their ambitious, two-year projects designed to shift ideas, rules, and power in the data economy.
The winners will accept their awards in person at the Future of Data Challenge Awards Ceremony and Reception during South by Southwest (SxSW), which runs from 4:30-7:30 pm on March 14 at SKYBOX on 6th (4th floor) in Austin, Texas. Each winning project is also featured on www.futureofdatachallenge.org.
Among the honorees are those:
“Society’s relationship with data needs to change,” said Sushant Kumar, director of responsible technology at Omidyar Network. “If we continue under today’s paradigm that treats data like property to be acquired, we will only enrich corporations and governments and endanger everyone else. The Future of Data Challenge is designed to surface and support new structures, institutions, norms, incentives, and leaders that prioritize all stakeholders; rebalance data’s power in our lives; and spread its economic and social value fairly across society.”
The 2023 $100,000 prize-winning ideas include:
Ada Lovelace Institute | United Kingdom
Datasphere Initiative | Switzerland
Derechos Digitales | Chile
Eticas Tech | Spain
Open Environmental Data Project | United States
OpenMined | United States
PersonalData.IO | Switzerland
Stichting Global Voices | Netherlands
Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) | United States
suma | United States
Additionally, five organizations will receive a $20,000 prize for these ideas:
Ashoka Innovators for the Public | United States
Busara Center for Behavioral Economics | United States
Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation | United States
Tech Matters | United States
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television | United States
For the past three years, Omidyar Network has been surfacing new ideas and enabling entrepreneurial experiments in service of a new data paradigm. The Future of Data Challenge, which ran from June—September 2022, was one such experiment managed by Carrot, an expert in running competitive programs that engage fresh perspectives, produce new solutions, and drive tangible results. Late last year, challenge applicants reviewed their peers' ideas and offered helpful suggestions to strengthen their work; then sixteen experts evaluated the applications across four dimensions; and ultimately, a five-person selection committee, including Omidyar Network leadership, chose the winning ideas, which span seven countries.
Later this spring, Omidyar Network and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation will also launch a new Data Empowerment Fund. The new $1.3 million fund will support a new wave of experiments, pilots, and prototypes to build critical infrastructure like data cooperatives, exchanges, standards, and interoperability solutions. The fund is designed to support a range of projects, scoped between $50,000 and $200,000, that help build technology, legal, and community-oriented solutions for enabling greater individual agency and community control over data.
“It's important that transformative ideas have champions and somewhere to grow,” Kumar said. “This joint fund between Omidyar Network and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation will help ensure that innovators, activists, designers, researchers, and entrepreneurs can continue to challenge, disrupt, and reimagine how the data economy operates. We have the opportunity to ensure the next century of data is fair, inclusive, empowering, and driven by public interest.”
Established by philanthropists Pam and Pierre Omidyar, Omidyar Network is a social change venture that has committed more than $1.8 billion to innovative for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations since 2004. Omidyar Network works to reimagine critical systems and the ideas that govern them, and to build more inclusive and equitable societies in which individuals have the social, economic, and democratic power to thrive. Learn more at www.omidyar.com.
In their own words, the Future of Data Challenge winners share their motivations and visions for these projects:
Carly Kind, Director | Ada Lovelace Institute
“The digital economy is currently characterized by significant concentrations of corporate power and profit-driven practices and incentives. To create a just and equitable ecosystem where the opportunities, benefits, and privileges generated by data are shared, this power needs to be rebalanced towards people and society. Data access mandates are a mechanism that can empower regulators to access private-sector data for wider public benefit. We hope that this research will demonstrate to decision-makers that mandates can be an effective and practical means of shifting the balance of power in positive and societally beneficial directions.”
Konstanze Frischen, Global Lead of Tech & Humanity | Ashoka Innovators for the Public
“Our community is concerned about the dark side of the data economy. Social media platforms drive polarization and pollute society, and the public bears the costs. What if we taxed the companies for the bad they cause? Together with our Fellows, Ashoka develops ideas and frameworks to address the harmful impacts of big tech.”
Steve Wendel, Vice President | Busara Center for Behavioral Economics
"Companies around the world track and collect information using complicated or confusing permission forms. We believe that this can and must change – with a new evidence-driven consent management system that supports legitimate business interests and helps consumers express their true preferences."
Martin Hullin, Deputy Executive Director | Datasphere Initiative
“Youth are the seeds of our data future, yet their voices are absent, and vocabulary around data governance is poorly explained and unfit for reaching young people. #Youth4OurDataFuture is an ambitious effort to connect youth voices to decision-making on how data is used and managed so that access to shaping the data economy is truly equitable and that its value is responsibly unlocked for all.”
J. Carlos Lara, Co-Executive Director | Derechos Digitales
“Art is a powerful tool for digital rights advocacy. It can help us change our perception and understand that data is not just numbers through wires, but the product of our work and a piece of our lives, often exploited against our will. Art can provoke new thoughts and new attitudes towards data that can help us reclaim our rights over that part of our life.”
Gemma Galdon Clavell, Founder and CEO | Eticas Tech
"Innovation without responsibility harms us all. At Eticas Tech, we build AI accountability tools to create the market incentives that steer innovation toward fairness and responsibility. We build the seatbelts of AI.“
Katie Hoeberling, Director of Policy Initiatives | Open Environmental Data Project
“Climate change and environmental violence present complex social and technical challenges that require both infrastructural tools and collective action. With historic investments being made in environmental monitoring and open science, we're grateful for the opportunity to go beyond data collection to center the priorities and perspectives of frontline communities and leverage data for environmental justice. We hope that the community data hubs model will enable and empower communities, researchers, and local governments to share data ethically, build trust, and collaborate more effectively and equitably.”
Andrew Trask, Founder | OpenMined
“We believe that if privacy-enhancing technology is built in freely available, open-source platforms, it will lead to 1000x more data in every scientific field. If this happens, we think it’s the definitive solution to the open data problem in science and that the explosion in data will lead to a decade or more of Nobel-level scientific work around the world. We can’t think of a greater mission to work towards and are deeply grateful to Omidyar Network for their support.”
Jessica Pidoux, Director | PersonalData.io
“Data governance is not for heroes to empower others; it's a collective action. We all need to recover our personal data and take control of our personal lives that have been digitized. We are all in the same boat together: gig workers, passengers, youth, adults, you, me.”
Rebecca MacKinnon, Co-Founder | Stichting Global Voices
"Internet freedom is the same idea as freedom in our physical life. We can’t do anything and everything we want, but when we have rules and we have governance, we need to make sure that the rules are proportional, and the rules are grounded in the human rights framework. [...] Its freedom, but grounded on human rights, respecting human rights, and respecting other people’s security within the human rights context."
Albert Fox Cahn, Executive Director | Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP)
“It's our decision, our democratic decision, whether our data can be used for undemocratic ends. We can create new firewalls to protect our information — not computer code, but legal codes that shield us from having our data used against us in a court of law.”
Alan Hipólito, Executive Director | suma
“Suma believes that data is a community resource. It’s a disorganized, dispersed resource today, but important enough that powerful institutions build business models based on extracting it at minimum cost. We want to shift this extractive economy by applying community organizing principles to data — like a weak dollar finds strength in a cooperative and a weak job finds strength in a union, we believe an individual’s data can find strength in authentic solidarity with their community in the suma platform.”
Jim Fruchterman, CEO | Tech Matters
“Today’s tech industry is dominated by business models that approach data as an extractive opportunity, often to the detriment of the communities. There are limited options available to meet the needs of local leaders, who are making decisions each day on how to balance the economic and environmental priorities of their communities amidst climate change. Tech Matters is shifting power to these community leaders by building Terraso, an open-source software toolkit that supports these leaders through local data ownership and management in order to improve productivity, sustainability, and livelihoods for millions of people worldwide.”
Brian Kite, Interim Dean | UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
“The innovative, cross-disciplinary work of Professors Burke, Zhang, and Kutscher on data-centric approaches for ‘the Metaverse’ is an important contribution to ensuring an equitable and democratic next generation of the global Internet.”
Claire Melamed, CEO of the Global Partnership of Sustainable Development Data | United Nations Foundation
"Data is powering economic growth and transformations in governments across the world. But investment in data systems that reproduce existing inequalities undermines sustainable development and leaves people, communities, and nations behind. Putting values at the heart of data investments is how we do this. We’re proud to work with partners through the Data Values Project to inspire and create data systems of the future.“