UNICC is partnering with the Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS) to bring students together for a 3-day live competition from April 5 to April 7, 2024, to tackle the great challenges of our time.

We invite students from all over the world to participate in the UNICC-Columbia University Thinkathon 2024, jointly organized by UNICC and Columbia SPS. The goal is to work together on real-world solutions based on Digital Public Goods (DPGs).

DPGs are essential in unlocking the full potential of digital technologies and data to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nowadays many of the most useful digital solutions are not readily accessible, particularly to those who need them the most. In alignment with the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, UNICC is heeding the call to developing and advocating for DPGs.

Are you an undergraduate or Master’s student who wants to make a difference? Block your calendar and put your creative hat on to help solve global challenges using Digital Public Goods in the UNICC-Columbia University Thinkathon 2024!


Challenge 1


As social and economic life becomes increasingly digitalized, it is critical that Digital Diplomacy tools and capabilities are strategically enhanced, prioritized, and matured. This will assist both international organizations and Member States in pursuing their policy goals, fostering multilateralism, and collaborating effectively to achieve the 2030 Development Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Ideate a digital solution that can facilitate Digital Diplomacy. For example, technology can support diplomatic conferences, negotiations, decision-making, consular services or collaboration between multiple stakeholders inside and outside the diplomatic community, as well as by supporting both virtual and hybrid engagements. Consider mobile technologies, AI-powered tools, technical interfaces, process automation or any other digital technology that can fit this purpose. Reflect on how digital technology can advance the multilateral agenda and bolster resilience, ensuring seamless international and regional communication and cooperation. Since UNICC is one of the main contributors to the digitalization of the UN system, think about how to incorporate the Organization’s assets and work into your solution.


  • Trust and credibility in digital environments.
  • Linguistic challenges.
  • Uneven access to the internet worldwide.
  • A variety of platforms across different UN agencies or Member States.
  • Diplomatic rules and procedures.

Challenge 2


Technology can help transform education and create new opportunities for students, educators and institutions. For example, blockchain technologies and digital contracts can improve the accessibility and accountability of learning certificates by enabling “digital credentials”. This can make education processes more efficient and paperless, increase quality assurance through instant verification, make learning certificates more accessible and portable, and boost interoperability across borders.


Ideate a solution for digital credentials which ensures the trustworthiness of data, interoperability of systems, and compliance with learning standards. Since UNICC has the advantage of providing digital infrastructure, such as private cloud services through UNICC Cloud, think about how to incorporate UNICC’s assets and work into your solution.


  • Legitimate issuing,storage and verification process for digital certificates.
  • Identity and record management.
  • Secure data management.
  • Uneven access to high-quality education worldwide

Explore the Thinkathon GitHub for datasets and resources

  • Current or recent graduates (alumni) of accredited colleges or universities worldwide.
  • 18+ years or older at the time of entering the competition.
  • One member of a team must be a Columbia University student or alumni including terminal degrees, certificate, non-degree, visiting or scholars.
  • Registration for individual looking for a team is open until March 19.
  • Registration for team and team members are open until March 22.
  • Registration is open to both individuals and teams. The team should consist of a minimum of 3 individuals and a maximum of 5.
  • Only one member of the team needs to complete the registration for the entire team.
  • At least one individual per team must be a current CU Student or Alumni.
  • Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged.
  • Individual participants without a team will have the opportunity to join existing teams.
  • Each team can only participate in one challenge.
  • March 22 at Noon EST – Team Registration Deadline
  • March 27 at Noon EST – Team Proposal Submission Deadline
  • By April 5 – Announcement of the Finalist Teams
  • April 5, 6, 7 – Thinkathon Live Competition
  • April 9 – Announcement of Winners and Award Ceremony
  1. Final Team Selection Criteria (Proposal Stage)
  • CATEGORY 1 – OVERALL QUALITY OF THE IDEA PROPOSAL: To what extent does the team’s proposed solution appear to solve the problem and deliver value in comparison to existing alternatives? 
  • CATEGORY 2 – USE OF DATA: How does the proposal leverage the datasets provided (or other sample datasets) to inform the solution?
  • CATEGORY 3 – SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: How many SDGs does the solution impact, and how does it contribute to the achievement of the SDGs?  
  • CATEGORY 5 – PROPOSAL STRUCTURE: Is the PowerPoint articulated in a clear and engaging manner? 
  1. Live Competition Judging Criteria
  • CATEGORY 1 – CLARITY & INNOVATION OF SOLUTION: To what extent does the team’s proposed solution appear to solve the problem and deliver value in comparison to existing alternatives? Does the solution show strategic thinking and/or incorporate performance metrics?
  • CATEGORY 2 – SOCIAL IMPACT: Which/How many SDGs does the solution impact? How does it improve the Sustainable Development Goal/Target/Indicator? How many people and communities are affected by the problem(s), and how severe are the adverse impacts? How does this solution affect the countries in varied economic/development settings?
  • CATEGORY 3 – FEASIBILITY & SUSTAINABILITY: How deployable is this solution within the Humanitarian/International Development/United Nations setting? Are there regulatory hurdles? How long will it take to develop? Are key milestones identified? What ethical considerations does the solution address in its implementation and execution?
  • CATEGORY 4 – CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS & FINANCIAL FORECAST: What are your fixed, variable and periodic expenses? What is the cost-benefit analysis of the project? How will you sustain your solution for the long term and who are your long-term supporters?
  • CATEGORY 5 – OPERATIONAL & TECHNOLOGICAL VIABILITY: How innovative is the solution in its use of new or existing technology to solve the problem described in the Brief? How is technology used to improve operational efficiencies? How is data leveraged to inform the solution from conception to execution?
  • CATEGORY 6 – DIGITAL PUBLIC GOODS: To what extent does the solution qualify for the DPG Registry and comply with the DPG requirements? DPG requirements include connection to the SDGs, open source software, platform independence, do no harm by design, etc. They are available here.
  • CATEGORY 7 – PRESENTATION CRITERIA: Presentation Delivery: Tone, Speed, Articulation, Engagement, Presentation and Content:
    • Did the presenters deliver their solution in an articulate, engaging and clear manner?
    • Did the PowerPoint slides enhance the presentation – were they clear, concise and compelling?
    • Did the presenters offer well-prepared responses during the Q&A?

Prominent team mentors and judges from the diplomatic community and the UN family

Challenge 1 – Digital Diplomacy

  • Team 1 – MINTSGU: Elna Lalita; Kartiko Sewoyo; Irvan Putra; Dwiky Putra; Josua Simanjuntak
  • Team 2 – Data Explorers: Michelle Tirtoatmojo; Agnes Millenia; Ellentina Hartono Putri; Eleanor Haley Blum; Jason Jin
  • Team 3 – DigiSolvers: Vladislav Shepelenko; You Wu; Sam Kadouh; Yazan Zeeshan Ali; Maria Ramírez Ruiz-Bailon
  • Team 4 – Techplomats: Akosua Wordie; Menghan Cui; Rohin Patel; Zetian Zhang
  • Team 5 – Columbia Cyber Consuls: Lorena Miranda; Meichen Liu; Melinda Zhang

Challenge 2 – Quality Education

  • Team 1 – Growth Solutions: Yuyang (Alanna) Lu; Fadilla Primariadewi; Esther Greeman ; Beatriz Gafas González; Syed Rizvi
  • Team 2 – Great Lake ThinkThank: Audrey Lee; Yichen Chen; Prayag Bhakar; Alex Diebold; Thida Chong
  • Team 3 – IDforEDU: Satria Bakri; Triya Venisya Refsi Putri; Orchida Dianita; Amelia Bakrie; Amy Utomo
  • Team 4 – DigiBridge: Abhijit Patharkar; Shubham Ghosh; Gustavo Montaldo; James Hodgson
  • Team 5 – RAYN: Faten Froukh; Sulaiman Mustapha; Salahadin Mustapha
  • Winning Team Challenge 1 – Digital Diplomacy: $ 2,500
  • Winning Team Challenge 2 – Quality Education: $ 2,500

A team should consist of a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 individuals. Only one member should complete the registration for the whole team. Only teams can submit the idea proposals and participate in the challenge, not individuals.

Individual participants are invited to register for the Information Sessions on March 7 and March 19. During these sessions, individuals can network with other participants and build their teams.

Yes, recent graduates (alumni) of accredited colleges or universities worldwide can register for the Thinkathon.

Yes, recent graduates (alumni) of accredited colleges or universities worldwide can register for the Thinkathon.

As long as there is at least one member of the team who is a Columbia University student or alumni including terminal degrees, certificate, non-degree or visiting scholars, the other team members can be from the same or different universities. We do encourage teams with participants from multiple universities and programs to join the challenge.

No, every team can participate in just one challenge.

Participants must register at this specific link. Team Registration closes on March 22 at noon EST.

All the teams who register for the challenge by March 22 can submit their ideas by March 27. Teams will be shortlisted and only 10 will be mentored and will compete for the Demo Day on April 9. Final teams will be notified ahead of the challenge start on April 5. During Demo Day, the solutions ideated by the 10 final teams will be evaluated by the judges and the winning team will be awarded.

Given the limited time of the challenge, it is not necessary to produce a product demo. Presentations or wireframes are also acceptable.

Do you still have questions? Contact us at [email protected] or [email protected] and use the following subject line: “Thinkathon2024”

Winning Teams

🥁🥁🥁 And the UNICC-Columbia University #Thinkathon2024 winners are:
🥇 Team 3: DigiSolvers – Digital Diplomacy
🥇 Team 5: RAYN – Quality Education

A huge round of applause to the winners and well done to all participants for your dedication and creativity! 👏👏🥳🎊 pic.twitter.com/0AiGe8c2zr

— UNICC (@unicc_ict) April 9, 2024