#DigitalAgainstCOVID-19: Everything You Need to Know to Participate in ADB’s Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic has added decibels to the voices that are pro-digitization and innovation across industries and governments. In the last couple of months, we have seen how digital technologies can target problems emerging from COVID-19. For example, the innovative use of mobile and internet penetration helped successfully implement some of the world's largest citizen mapping/contact-tracing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are witnessing many countries using the direct benefit transfer methods to provide quick relief. India's JAM infrastructure that includes Jan Dhan accounts, biometric identity system Aadhaar, and mobile penetration, helped 320 million people in India receive direct benefits for quick relief while reducing the virus spread risk associated with physical cash and cheques. Further, public health organizations worldwide are using predictive modeling to prepare for the next wave of outbreak.

Governments in the APAC region are looking for innovative solutions for e-learning infrastructures, telemedicine, e-governance, drones, and AI for social distancing surveillance, encouraging contactless payment solutions. However, governments alone cannot achieve everything; here, some sustainability-focused organizations come to the rescue. For example, the Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s response to COVID-19 started in March with an initial $6.5 billion package that was increased to $20 billion in mid-April to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This multisector, diverse support has higher data and digital components than ever before. ADB and the Asian Institute of Management are collaborating to use their convening power to harness the digital possibilities to fight this war against COVID-19. Inspired by this spirit, ADB and AIM launched in spring 2020 their third joint hackathon to tap the world's ingenuity to find acceptable ways to combat COVID-19 and help create the new normal.

ADB's innovation challenge platform has launched a series of challenges to create innovative digital solutions to solve some unique challenges under its #DigitalAgainstCOVID-19 initiative under the 'economic development' theme.

About #DigitalAgainstCOVID-19 Challenges

The hackathon has five themes that cover health & well-being, education, economic development, enhancing government capabilities, and green recovery. Each of these themes has multiple tracks for targeted problem-solving. The objective of these challenges is to envision the new normal in light of potential long-term behavioral changes and encourage innovative solutions to address these shifts and associated challenges.

ADB's #DigitalAgainstCOVID-19 includes a series of challenges around these themes. So far, applications for four challenges have been completed; the three challenges on the theme ‘Restoring Public Confidence on Safe Travels,’ ‘Digital Technologies to Assess Safeguard Impacts,’ and ‘Real-time Tracking of Resettlement Implementation’ are open for applications.

Details of the Challenges Inviting Applications

(Open Until August 7, 2020)

1. Restoring Public Confidence in Safe Travel

In this challenge, ADB aims to develop innovative digital solutions that help restore individual confidence in travel safety as the first step in travel and tourism recovery. Examples include screening procedures & health checks, physical distancing protocols, new travel requirements, standardized facility sanitation, and passengers’ hygiene regimens to reduce the spread of infection and restore confidence in travel. 

2. Digital Technology to Assess Safeguard Impacts

How can digital technologies be used to demarcate and assess the scope and types of impact on land, assets, people, and the environment without visiting the sites and compromising safeguard compliance through alternative ways and approaches, such as geospatial technologies and unmanned aerial vehicles? This includes:

  • Land: What is the total area of the land plot/s located within the corridor of impact (COI) based on the design drawings? Can timed series of geospatial data and information tell us of any changes observed pre-project against the actual status of impact?
  • Assets: Finding details of the type of assets located within the impacted land, the total area of the distressed asset, type of affected assets (permanent/capital construction vs. temporary residential house, auxiliary structures, fence, shed, gate, etc.), and if the type of construction materials can be identified.
  • Crops and Trees: What kind of crops are planted (rice, cassava, corn, etc.)? What is the impacted area under the crops? Is it possible to estimate the number and type of trees within the COI?
  • Biodiversity Conservation Areas: Does the COI cross biodiversity conservation zones?
  • Indigenous People: Is the COI within the territories of any indigenous peoples or on areas that indigenous peoples and (or) ethnic minorities occupy?

3. Real-Time Tracking of Resettlement Implementation

Develop a dashboard where users can enter real-time data and access information on key involuntary resettlement safeguard indicators for ADB projects. It covers the following: 

  • Continuous engagement with affected households
  • Complaints received and progress in resolution
  • Progress in compensation and assistance payments
  • Progress in the handover of land
  • Changes in the socioeconomic status of AHs
  • Submission and disclosure of updated resettlement plans and social monitoring reports
Applications will be accepted for these three challenges until August 7, 2020 (12:00 PM GMT +8). Interested applicants can find the details of ongoing challenges on the ADB platform here.


What’s in it for participants? 

ADB’s challenges have a mix of rewards: some winners will receive seed funding, technical support from ADB for pilot testing, and (or) mentoring support from experts. The past challenges have rewarded winners after going through the stringent filtering process and meeting extensive criteria. The #DigitalAgainstCOVID-19 hackathon emphasizes on pilot testing opportunities instead of prize money, although challenges will have funding attached. Participants can win $10,000 for pilot testing if their solution is selected.

Other recently closed challenges:

1. Nowcasting the Economic Impact of COVID-19

In this challenge, ADB aims to provide timely economic activity measures using alternative data sources and new approaches, so that policymakers and businesses can have a sense of real-time economic performance (also known as “nowcasting,” as opposed to “forecasting”) as the crisis unfolds rapidly. Several aspects of economic activity and performance will be tracked across four tracks in this challenge.

2. Digital Technology to Increase Credit Access for MSMEs

The critical problem statements for this challenge was, “How can we safely use Big Data and Machine Learning to model entrepreneurs' creditworthiness? Is the sector or industry-specific credit scoring an option to increase credit access? How might we increase the inclusivity of financial service providers' scoring mechanisms without compromising accuracy and transparency while defeating discrimination?” With this challenge, ADB aimed to find solutions for effective MSME transition from crisis to recovery by unlocking capital sources and gaining access to finance.

3. Earth Observation Data Challenge

How can we use earth observation data to monitor the economic activities in select countries in Asia? ADB is exploring solutions to measure the short-term changes in economic activities brought about by COVID-19. This specific challenge will make use of earth observatory data of any applicable satellite images or any processing infrastructures. Solutions would provide models and data analytics presented in a dashboard format in select countries in Asia.

4. Digitizing Waste Collection through Handling, Tracking, and Recycling to Disposal

This challenge aims to develop an app or a system with local context to track waste, from production to disposal. The app would follow waste through the many hands and activities involved in the reverse supply chain and would therefore provide:

  • A foundation for waste reduction 
  • Improved accountability and 
  • Better identification of activities that could be improved towards increased sustainability

Round two challenges will be launched soon and include the following: improving remote monitoring of water utilities using IoT, digital reskilling of the new workforce, gaining insights into people's mobility to enhance social distancing measures, smart contracts, remote monitoring and evaluation of ADB projects using IoT, digital economy solutions for hard-hit sectors, driving safe community transportation using digital solutions, modeling a safe return to work, and youth seeding the new era of smart farming.

About the Challenge Platform 

In July 2019, ADB launched its first digital innovation platform managed under ADB Digital’s innovation sandbox program. The goal of the innovation crowdsourcing platform is to collectively generate breakthrough ideas and solutions for development and solve institutional challenges through digital technologies. ADB Digital partners with various entities, such as startups, organizations, and internal stakeholders worldwide, to co-create innovative solutions, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. The platform facilitates the process of challenge origination and application, leading to large-scale hackathons and pitching sessions to foster ideas critical to sustainable development in APAC.

ADB is looking for participants from startups, students, ADB employees, and the general public to make a real, lasting, and positive impact in Asia. Interested applicants can contact digital@adb.org.


The Asian Development Bank (ADB) envisions a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty in the region. Despite the region's many successes, it remains home to a large share of the world's poor: 330 million living on less than $1.90 a day and 1.24 billion on less than $3.20 a day. In partnership with member governments, independent specialists, and other financial institutions, ADB is focused on delivering projects in developing member countries that create economic and development impact.

ADB maximizes the development impact of its assistance by facilitating policy dialogues, providing advisory services, and mobilizing financial resources through co-financing operations that tap official, commercial, and export credit sources.