Final Assignment (essay) : Data for Peace & Justice

Deadline: 7 November

70% of the grade (essay): write and publish an essay on the potential of Data for Humanity. You will reflect on the importance of data-driven innovations for confronting a complex societal challenge within the domains of development, humanitarian action or peace and justice;




"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." 
- Albert Einstein


How could the ever-growing amounts of digital data help us to confront today’s complex societal challenges? Will more data allow us to improve policy responses in the domains of development and humanitarian action? Could Big Data help us to end violent conflicts and build peace?

Big Data has often been described as a fuel for both innovation and our economy. It is being applied in many areas, for example financial markets, health and the intelligence sector. It is however foreseen that the increased availability of new data sources offers new opportunities in other domains as well. In this course, you will explore current trends and prospects for Big Data to become a drive for peace and justice.

Lectures will reflect on various showcases, including the use of open web data and social media for monitoring conflict dynamics in Syria; the analysis of mobile phone data in analysing epidemic outbreaks such as Ebola; and the availability of various data sources in confronting the current refugee crisis. You will focus on the challenges both from a policy and responsible innovation perspective.


The assignment requires you to write a structured report in the form of an essay (maximum 2,500 words). Build up your proposal using the following structure (with and indication of words):

  • Identify a Complex Societal Challenge within the domains of Development, Humanitarian Action, Peace & Justice (500 words)
  • Indicate how an data-driven innovation (out of the lectures or based on own research) can be applied to confront this challenge (1000 words)
  • Reflect on key challenges (in particular from a social and ethical concerns) which should be taken into consideration for implementing data-driven innovation and how to accommodate for them in the process (1000 words)