Data-For-Good Hackathon: Philippines

August 26, 2020

How much progress are the Philippines making towards the SDGs? Is the country on track? And what are the key challenges? This past week, teams came together to collect and analyze SDG data to answer this exact question.

When we released the Sustainable Development Report 2020, my good friends Angela and Aurelien from Eskwelabs reached out to me. Eskwelabs is a data-science bootcamp in the Philippines, so naturally there was a lot of mutual interest in each other's work. We started brainstorming about an event that we could organize in partnership between Eskwelabs and my organization, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

After some back and forth, we started to get excited about hosting a Data-for-Good Hackathon: A virtual hackathon designed for those who are eager to learn more about how the Philippines is doing in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Particularly, individuals who love telling stories with data.

The hackathon got kicked off on Saturday, August 15, with an explanation of the schedule and a presentation from me. I shared about our work to monitor and track the performance of all 193 UN Member States on the Sustainable Development Goals and presented our Sustainable Development Report 2020, including a deep-dive into its methodology. I also shared a few tips and tricks about telling compelling data-driven stories.

You can watch my presentation here (starting at 4:00): https://www.facebook.com/Eskwelabs/videos/822771401801408/?t=240


Participants of the hackathon had one week to form teams, collect data, analyze data, and prepare a pitch to share their findings. The data could come from official sources like the World Bank and the WHO or non-official sources like non-profit organizations and academia. There really were few limitations to teams' creativity. The teams covered many different aspects of the SDGs, from education and sustainable cities to climate action and peace.

Five of the teams received the opportunity to present and pitch their findings during the public showcase on Saturday, August 22nd.This event was live-streamed on Facebook and a recording can be watched here: https://www.facebook.com/Eskwelabs/videos/2434475030179439/

A panel of judges, consisting of the data scientist Francesca Aguila, Karl Satinitigan, and myself, evaluated each presentation on the basis of clarity, analytical rigor, and data visualization in order to determine the three winning teams.

First Prize: Team Sambong · Patterns of Conflict

Team members: Lorenzo Flores and Arnald Paguio
You can watch the presentation of Team Sambong here.


With the passing of the controversial anti-terror bill that aimed to curb terrorism in the Philippines, the team aimed to understand what exactly the situation on conflict is like. The team found that the Philippines has shown no significant improvement in reducing conflict related deaths, and is in fact performing much worse than regional peers. Only 5 out of 73 provinces with available data showed a significant reduction in the number of battles that occur in a month, with Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur emerging as hotspots of conflict. Also, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was linked to a reduction of 0.8 battles per month, which showed relatively little overall impact – and while a similar result was found for the Anti-Terror bill, data is insufficient to make meaningful claims. The data supported claims that conflict is linked to issues of poverty and political instability, which implies that the solution to conflict lies in addressing these longer-term issues.

Second Prize: Team Mago Analytics · Transportation and Safety

Team members: Elissa Cabal, John Gabriel Daos, Angelie Maglasang, Johnny Ong, and Jeriesa Osorio
You can watch the presentation of Team Mago Analytics here.


The team focused on comparing the Philippines' transportation infrastructure and safety with that of other SEA countries. The Philippines has the 4th highest number of road traffic deaths in Southeast Asia, despite large investments in the transportation sector. Worryingly, the number of road deaths has been on a steady increase since 1990 for drivers, bikers, and cyclists. Pedestrians, on the other hand, have only seen a slight increase in road deaths over the last 30 years. By comparing transportation investments and traffic deaths for various countries in the SEA region, the team was able to identify countries that the Philippines could learn from in order to make its streets safer.

Third Prize: Team Nikki's Angels · Quality Education

Team members: Niel Bungcayao, Monique Cosiquien, Conner Manuel, and Coltrane Torres
You can watch the presentation of Team Nikki's Angels here.


Team Nikki's Angels assessed the performance of the Philippines on SDG 4: Quality Education.The team focused on various dimensions of education, including access, enrollment rates, gender differences, and quality. They found that the Philippines should focus additional efforts to ensure a high quality of education by reducing the student-to-teacher ratio and increasing teacher salaries. In addition, additional investments are needed in education-enabling infrastructure, such as electricity access, computers, and Internet connectivity. Lastly, a nationwide focus on equality and inclusiveness is needed to make sure that all boys and girls are able to complete primary and secondary schooling.

About Eskwelabs

Eskwelabs is an online data upskilling school in the Philippines. Our mission is to drive social mobility in the future of work through data skills education. And we do that through bringing together the best of online & community-based learning to achieve affordability for in-demand digital and data skills, job outcomes at different skills levels, and a peer community to promote lifelong learning.

About the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was set up in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. SDSN works closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.