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Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics launches data science challenge in collaboration with Chicago

New annual contest for MIT students to recognize best data analytics and visualization ideas.

The Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics have launched an annual data science challenge for 2014 that is being conducted in collaboration with the city of Chicago.

The challenge invites MIT students to analyze Chicago’s publicly available data sets and develop data visualizations that will provide the city with insights that can help it better serve residents, visitors, and businesses. Through data visualization, or visual renderings of data sets, people with no background in data analysis can more easily understand insights from complex data sets.

Participants in the 2014 challenge will use information publicly available through Chicago’s Data Portal — such as the Chicago Traffic Tracker and Census data — to develop data visualizations that fall in one or more of the following categories:

  • Positive impact for Chicago residents: The visualization will answer one of these questions: What do residents need to understand better about their city? What will capture the interest and imagination of Chicago’s residents? How can you present information that will allow them to access or use services more effectively? What can you convey that will improve public safety or make better use of residents’ resources and save them money?
  • Positive impact for Chicago management: The visualization will answer: How can information be presented to city management that will help them better understand the city’s challenges? How can the data identify and fix new problems faster or more clearly? How can a service be more effective where it can improve the utility of Chicago’s resources?
  • Breakthrough idea: Explain a new Chicago challenge and create a visualization that offers a solution to a problem that has not been thought about yet.

David Simchi-Levi, an MIT professor and co-head of the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics, said, “We are very pleased to launch the annual Accenture and MIT Data Science Challenge with the city of Chicago. We believe that this challenge, bringing together MIT students with the city of Chicago’s data sets, will assist the alliance’s research and help serve the city’s utilization of government data and engagement with their community.”

Narendra Mulani, senior managing director at Accenture Analytics, and co-head of the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics, said, “We’re unleashing the full creative potential of MIT students in two of the hottest analytics domains — data visualization and open data. This is a great opportunity for city of Chicago to advance on their analytics journey. At the same time, we’re expanding our alliance’s body of knowledge we can leverage in further third party research projects.”

The panel of judges evaluating the submissions include the co-leads of the Alliance, Simchi-Levi, and Mulani, as well as Commissioner and CIO of the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology Brenna Berman, Director of Analytics and Performance at the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology Tom Schenk, XPRIZE Trustee Rob McEwen, Editor-in-Chief of MIT Technology Review Jason Pontin, and Stuart Frost, a managing partner of Frost Venture Partners.

Submissions will be judged based on the potential positive impact they could have on the city’s residents, visitors, businesses, and management. The jury will also take into account the practicability of the idea and the user experience it offers, such as its ease of use and aesthetic appeal. Awards include cash prizes and recognition by MIT, Accenture, XPRIZE Trustee, and Frost Venture Partners. Prizes will be awarded at an MIT event.

The challenge is now open and ends April 30. Registration is free and open to active MIT students 18 and over (19 in Alabama and Nebraska). Register and see the full rule here:

About the City of Chicago Open Data

The City of Chicago's Data Portal aims to promote access to government data and encourage the development of creative tools to engage and serve Chicago's diverse community. The site hosts more than 200 datasets presented in easy-to-use formats about the city’s departments, services, facilities and performance. The catalog presented below lists datasets alphabetically and links back to each set on the Portal.

About the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics

Launched in 2013, the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics combines Accenture's industry and analytics expertise with MIT's scientific and technological leadership. Its research aims to close the gap between the advance of analytics technologies and their successful application in specific industry and government environments. The Alliance’s two streams of collaboration cover the challenges of harnessing big data and new approaches to improve the science of decision-making. It is headed by Narendra Mulani, senior managing director for Accenture Analytics, and David Simchi-Levi, professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering systems at MIT.

For more information, contact Leslie Sheppard, chief strategy officer for the Forum, at or 617-852-2708.

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