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05 Aug 2019
Global service for preventing wildfires wins main prize at the World Challenge 2018 Finals
Global service for preventing wildfires wins main prize at the World Challenge 2018 Finals

New York / Helsinki - The World Challenge Finland 2018 showcased innovative technology solutions that could potentially be used to tackle the effects of climate change as well as other major global challenges. The goal of the competition was to develop services supporting sustainable development using open-source satellite data.

This year’s World Challenge was co-hosted by the United Nations Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL), the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the European Space Agency (ESA). The challenge culminated at the Finals Day in Nokia Experience Center in Espoo, Finland, on 30 August. 

The main prize winner, Wildfire Aware, utilizes data from various sources and provides machine-learning-based forecasts about wildfires and attempts to prevent or minimize damage caused by them. The service is a result of the long-term development work of a team of mathematics and computer science students from the University of York in the United Kingdom. In addition, Wildfire Aware won a special prize provided by Microsoft as the best service using the Azure cloud service.

In addition to the main prize, Space Nation, awarded its special prize—the opportunity for the winner to send its solution to space to collect real-time data—to the Aalto KitSat Training SatelliteVaisala, which was seeking for the best solution for air pollution reduction, gave its special challenge prize to the Environment Channel, and the National Land Survey of Finland’s special prize went to a service called Global Traffic Forecast.

In addition to the winners, the finale showcased several interesting solutions related to forecasting traffic and pollen, as well as, water management and environmental viability evaluation in the developing countries.

The World Challenge aimed to bring the world closer together through innovative solutions, built by the open-source community, that could be utilized globally in UN projects.

During the 2018 World Challenge Finals, the United Nations Office of ICT also soft-launched its first UN Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL) in Espoo, which will officially start its operations this autumn.

Welcoming the partnership on the 2018 World Challenge, Mr Salem Avan, Director of Global Services Division at the UN Office of ICT, said, “UNTIL is pleased to work with key partners to bring first tangible results out from the collaboration between Finland and the UN that resulted in the creation of UNTIL Finland in Espoo, supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. With the insight that Finland has on how to use technology for good, we can expect great things from the collaboration.”

The UN Office of ICT has long recognized that technology is critical to the delivery of the UN mandates. The UNTIL programme leverages cutting-edge frontier technologies to enable the work of the Organization and pioneer open source technology solutions in the areas of peace and security, international law, human rights, development and humanitarian affairs.

The World Challenge 2018 Finals was opened by the Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland Ms. Anne Berner, and presentations were given by Mr. Maurizio Gazzola, Chief of Strategic Solutions in the UN Office of ICT, former astronaut training instructor Ron Fortunato, and Finnish space experts.

The World Challenge Finals 2018 was organized by Digital Forum Finland and Ultrahack. The global competition was held for the sixth time.

For more information about the World Challenge 2018 competition, projects, partners, and finals, visit:

Secretary General

"The advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, are generating revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing.  
I am convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leap‑frog into a better future."

23 March 2018, New York