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CFA joins global bushfire science challenge

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The world’s brightest young minds have been invited to design better ways to detect, map and predict the behaviour of bushfires using data science and advanced analytic tools in a challenge supported by CFA’s bushfire experts.

CFA joins global bushfire science challenge

The 2021 Better Working World Data Challenge, facilitated by EY and Microsoft, asks university students and young professionals to develop an automated fire-edge detection and forecasting model using airborne and satellite imagery from NASA, the European Space Agency, and Geoscience Australia to help tackle the global threat of bushfires.

So far, thousands of people from more than 100 countries have joined the Challenge, which runs from 24 March until 15 June and is still open for registrations at ey.com/datasciencechallenge.

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Bushfire Alen Slijepcevic will join bushfire and science data experts from around the world on the judging panel to select the best submissions to the challenge. He said it made sense to collaborate internationally on what is a global threat.


“CFA has a long history of investing in science and technology and we pride ourselves on being a progressive emergency service. So working with EY to bring thousands of the best young minds in data science together on the challenge of bushfires was an exciting prospect,” he said.

“This innovative project takes data from a range of sources and uses the latest science and technology to reconstruct the fire edge – it’s going to be really exciting to see what they come up with.

“This information, when received at critical times during a fire event, allows incident management teams to understand the fire location and fire behaviour. This can then be used to warn the community, allocate resources, devise suppression strategies and plan recovery activities.

“Fire behaviour analysts can also use this information to predict the future fire spread and behaviour.”

EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader Beatriz Sanz Saiz said it is essential to encourage aspiring data scientists and help them recognise that they can apply their skills to analyse real-world problems and develop algorithms that can have a lasting positive impact.

“We want participants to use the power of data science to find innovative solutions to the most complex and demanding problems,” she said. “We are very excited to see the kinds of transformative AI models that our 2021 Better Working World Data Challenge participants will propose this year, and in years to come, to help build a better world.”

After the close of submissions at midnight on 15 June, the top 60 global finalists will be invited to present a video with their findings, methodologies and assumptions.

The winner and runners-up will be announced at a global virtual awards ceremony in July.

The winning models will be made freely available globally for non-commercial use to allow maximum benefit and impact.