An effort to focus on the inventive uses of data
IFC MSME Finance Data Competition 2019 Recap
Early Afternoon on the 19th of November 2019, the basement auditorium at IFC Headquarters was set up in beautiful blue colors to match the incoming enthusiasm and intellect. More than 85 graduate students, from the following universities – American University, Catholic University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, George Mason University, and Johns Hopkins University, were welcomed. Among the 85, one could find diversity in almost every way including age, academic field, degree, and nationality. Some of the teams arrived well in-advance, prepared in their suits, aching to enter the prestigious halls of IFC. For many of them, this was an opportunity to feel familiar. As the graduate students made their way through security and proceeded to head down to the auditorium, we began to feel the brightness exceed its usual amount. Matthew Gamser, the CEO of the SME Finance Forum, Issa Faye (Director, Sector Economics & Development Impact Department) initiated IFC’s first MSME Finance Data Competition with their motivating and inspiring opening remarks.
The students submitted two take-home challenges (an infographic and research proposal) the week before and were waiting not only for the results but also for the eagerly awaited live-challenge (MSME Definition Challenge). The two challenges required the teams to primarily focus on the MSME Finance Gap database. This was an opportunity for them to weave relationships to create a story that informs decision-making. Likewise, this was an opportunity for us to notice sparks of creativity at its infancy.
The Sector Economics and Development Impact department and SME Finance Forum led the charge to ascertain the top two teams, for the Best Infographic, and the top three, for Best Research Proposal. For the latter, the three teams each presented and answered questions posed by the esteemed panel of judges. The main event or the live challenge required the teams to come up with a universal definition for MSMEs. The students remained staunchly engaged and prudently began to put their heads together to make productive use of the data sites hosted by SME Finance Forum.
A long stimulating day came to an end with a well-rewarding award ceremony and some time allotted for networking. In collaboration, IFC and the SME Finance Forum have taken the needed step to focus on the use of massive datasets to inform our actions and priorities. Those present in the auditorium were exposed to the context of MSMEs and their importance to the world’s economies by way of contribution to GDP, or workforce among other variables. I trust this is just the beginning of a joint and concerted effort to focus on the inventive uses of data gathered by IFC.