February 27, 2014

A new program at Columbia SIPA seeks to inspire innovative uses of digital technology and data that will benefit people in urban settings worldwide.

The SIPA Dean's Public Policy Challenge Grant Program, announced by Dean Merit E. Janow on February 27, invites students to design cutting-edge projects — and in some cases prototypes — that use  information and communications technology (ICT) and/or data analytics to solve urban problems.  SIPA will provide workshops, mentors, and other support that will help teams to refine and test their ideas.

“Today’s most forward-looking cities combine ICT with data to become more responsive to their citizens, more prosperous and sustainable, safer, better educated, and healthier,” wrote Janow in announcing the program. “From the U.S. to Brazil to Japan, initiatives in communities large and small have demonstrated that digital technology and data can help solve pressing problems.”

The challenge grant program, which is open to students throughout Columbia University, envisions the formation of cross-disciplinary teams that unite students in public policy and those in fields including computer science, engineering, and others. Teams must include at least one first-year SIPA student in a substantive role.

The program will place a premium on those entries with significant potential to be implemented, to produce a meaningful impact in a relatively short timeframe, and to be sustainable.

The program, which is a collaboration with Columbia Entrepreneurship, will consist of two competitions, one beginning in Spring 2014, and one beginning in Fall 2014. A total of $50,000 in prizes will be awarded to the winning team or teams in each year of the competition.

“The intersection of technology and public policy holds great promise for both scholars and future leaders,” Janow wrote. “ I look forward to our students’ innovations, and I’m pleased that we are taking this exciting step as a School.”

For complete details, please visit sipa.columbia.edu/challenge-grant.