Harnessing the Power of Big Data

18 Aug 2014

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A Big Data Joint Laboratory between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China and Baidu was launched today in Beijing to pioneer new methods and frameworks for using big data to support development goals.

The Joint Lab is designed as an open platform that brings together big data and development experts from UNDP and Baidu as well as partners from government, academia, CSOs and the private sector in both traditional and new technology industries across the country to tap into new insights and produce idea prototypes for testing and implementation. Concerted cross-sector partnerships can build a foundation for mutual innovation and knowledge sharing.

“Big data needs big partnerships; we are pleased to launch our Joint Lab as testament to our conviction that great change can only come about through new and innovative thinking ,” said Xu Haoliang, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau of Asia-Pacific of UNDP. “The UN recognizes that big data technology has tremendous potential to drive social innovation for sustainable development and we welcome partners like Baidu to contribute their technology expertise,” he added.

The joint Lab will leverage Baidu’s Big Data engine to identify valuable data which can contribute to formulating and implementing development strategies. Also, the public will be engaged to raise awareness of the specific challenges that the Joint Lab will be addressing, in order to encourage participation and foster behaviour change.

“This partnership with UNDP is an important milestone in our work of technological innovation and promotion of global public good,” said Jennifer Li, CFO of Baidu. “We believe that Baidu’s platforms and Big Data technology will help the UN to more effectively achieve the Millennium Development Goals and build a better world,” she added.

As the inaugural product of the Joint lab,  an e-waste recycling “Light App” designed for smart phones was unveiled at the event. “Baidu Recycle“, the first of its kind in China, is a web app that doesn’t need to be downloaded and can be accessed by searching for “Baidu Recycle” in the Baidu search app. Users can take a photo of their electronic waste and get the name, category and estimated scrap price for the item. Users in Beijing and Tianjin can arrange an e-waste pick-up provided by recycling partner TCL Corporation. This service is rolling out to other cities in the future.

The web app is hoped to help streamline the recycling process and cut down on those ‘informal recycling stations’ where uncredited entities reclaim precious metals from within electronic equipment but then dispose of the toxic materials incorrectly, causing severe ground and water pollution.

In China, national electronic waste grew at an annual average of 21.6% from 2009 to 2013. However, out of the over 3.6 million tonnes of e-waste being generated domestically, the actual amount of e-waste processed by legitimate channels only accounts for 40% of the theoretical scrap.  

“Using Baidu’s big data technology for analysing and processing industry data, we can better understand the recycling needs in different areas and make our existing and future recycling stations more efficient,” said Senior Vice-President of TCL Corporation Mr. Shi Wanwen. “This has a very important significance for upgrading the e-waste recycling industry with information technology,” he added.

As advocate for the UN-Baidu Big Data Joint Lab, renowned Chinese actress and film director Zhao Wei also gave a live demonstration on the use of ‘Baidu Recycle’ Light App. As the first user of the app, Zhao hopes to inspire everyone to utilize this more environmentally-friendly, more convenient and safer form of e-waste treatment.

To access the e-waste web app, search for “Baidu Recycle” in your Baidu App, on iOS or Android.