One more look back and then full steam ahead:
What 2020 had in store for us

December 22, 2020
Marie-Helen Cymorek

Dear colleagues, partners and companions of 2020, 
One almost wonders how this highly challenging year is slowly (or finally?) coming to an end - after all, the pandemic doesn't really seem to care about the yearly cycle: It continues to dictate what we do, where we go, who we meet, and which plans we make for the future. 
In these very uncertain times people are experiencing all over the globe, we can still observe something unique: An enormous amount of inventiveness, innovation and creativity! Almost every day we can hear about new ideas, progress and approaches to contain the pandemic and counteract its serious consequences. To find solutions to challenges of global magnitude, but at the same time to discover opportunities for change – that’s a human ability we find very inspiring. 
This year, we have put a lot of work into experiments, projects and partnerships that reflect the dynamic character of our environment. In context of the Data Powered Positive Deviance (DPPD) initiative, the GIZ Data Lab and its partners have passionately investigated occurrence and potential of positive deviants in many forms and varieties worldwide. A highlight was certainly our participation as a challenge giver at the AI@ Sustainability Hackathon (June, 24th-27th) by Siemens. We were lucky to have a team of excellent data analysts develop an initial model aimed at identifying districts that where particularly successful in containing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany. The team that worked on our challenge even won a price for presenting the most sustainable solution! If you like to follow the latest developments of this and other DPPD pilots in the next year, check out the initiative’s Medium Blog
Throughout the summer, we took a chance to shed a light on one of the more indirect and invisible consequences of the pandemic: The reports of drastic increases in levels of Gender Based Violence, particularly violence experienced by women and girls. In Mexico, we have partnered with the Data Pop Alliance and GIZ Mexico to use various sources of traditional and non-traditional data to identify those areas particularly affected. We are thankful for all the positive feedback and valuable inputs we have received for our approach, not least when we had the opportunity to present our prototype on this year’s digital Paris Peace Forum (November, 11th-13th). Following the motto "bouncing back to a better world", we also used this platform to take the first step towards a coalition for more, better and fairer gender data. There will surely be exciting news on our blog shortly after the turn of the year. 

You might ask yourself whether our work this year was only determined by the pandemic? That’s not true!  

We started to collect citizen generated data in fragile contexts (Anbar, Iraq) to disrupt contextual Monitoring & Evaluation. This will give us a chance to better understand our beneficiaries and to tailor our interventions for a peaceful economic and social reconstruction in transitional aid. As part of the Agenda 2030, we also ventured new activities based on AI classified satellite data for SDG tracking in Colombia. A first interim update of our technical cooperation with the national statistics department DANE will be available soon! Also, we made sustainable development the focus area of our GIZ-internal call for ideas to generate new experiments for 2021. We were pleased about the many creative submissions but also about the fruitful discussions with our colleagues on overarching topics such as data protection, the ethical application of artificial intelligence and cross-sectoral data partnerships. Finally, we transfer our learnings to co-develop our company wide data strategy and to provide toolkits on data sharing or alternative data sourcing along our project lifecycle.

Going through our letter to you again, we realize: There is still much to do! With this in mind, we wish you a restful holiday and a good start to the new year. Stay safe and greetings from the whole team, 
Andreas, Catherine, Christian, Erik, Lena, Karim and Valentin