As our world becomes increasingly interconnected and information-driven, we can share ideas and data faster and easier. These advances in technology are enabling a level of unprecedented collaboration and stoking competition, giving rise to crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing combines the creativity of individuals with the strength of communities. Individuals work together to accomplish tasks they may not be able to do alone, while organizations recognize, promote and gather the best ideas of individuals.

Limited time, headcount and resources no longer restrain individuals and organizations from innovation. Sometimes, all it takes is an internet connection and an open invitation to harness the power of the crowd. Here are three ways that crowdsourcing is transforming the world:

It’s solving important problems in science and medicine. Organizations working to find cures for deadly diseases are using crowdsourcing to accelerate data analysis and rapidly arrive at a cure. The need to repeat simple tasks, such as noting the color and severity of cancer cells in tens of thousands of slides, can cause bottlenecks in cancer research.

By using an online application that asked users to identify cancer cells in images, one charity was able to rapidly analyze more than a million images of molecular markers in breast cancer tumors with a high degree of accuracy. 1 Similarly, by setting up an online puzzle, participants helped scientists solve a crucial problem that had stumped them for 15 years. It took only 10 days for players of the online game to discover the structure of a key protein involved in the reproduction of the HIV virus. 2

It’s helping governments share data to improve communities. Today’s cities are becoming more and more like crowdsourcing platforms, as local governments release their data and challenge citizens to use their skills to help their neighbors. After releasing its terrain and transportation data, the city of Rennes, France, put out an open call for mobile applications that would make the city more accessible. The winning team created an app using Rennes’s data on tens of thousands of sidewalks to map accessible routes for people with disabilities. 3 The app also uses a crowdsourcing approach to continuously improve the city. Users of the app can revise the suggested routes and offer feedback on the accessibility of places of interest, from streets to bus stops to parking spots, helping the city evaluate its compliance and take tangible steps toward greater accessibility. 4

Through crowdsourcing, individuals are contributing their talents to help solve pressing social challenges in collaboration with elected officials. Soliciting input and innovations from the public through crowdsourcing is also helping city governments solve problems more quickly and transparently.

It’s empowering people to innovate. By connecting individuals with the institutional support that transforms ideas into impact, crowdsourcing can open new opportunities for innovators of all ethnicities, genders and ages. Individuals alone may not have the resources to translate bright ideas into action. Today, organizations can provide the resources and financial backing to help innovators reach new heights.

For example, in our 2016 University Challenge, AIG invited college students to create a safer future. The winning team designed and prototyped wearable devices that help police respond quicker and save lives during a school shooting. They incorporated noise detectors and Bluetooth transmitters into student identification cards, enabling them to detect gunshots or bomb blasts. Beacons in school rooms and hallways send alerts to police, allowing them to pinpoint the location of an active shooter. We would like to congratulate New York University’s Joseph Nardone, a Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear Science student, and Navindra Sawh, a Mechanical Engineering student, on their brilliant proposal to protect schools.

  1. Candido dos Reis, F. J., Lynn, S., Ali, H. R., Eccles, D., Hanby, A., Provenzano, Elena,…Pharoah, P.D.P. “Crowdsourcing the General Public for Large Scale Molecular Pathology Studies in Cancer.” EBioMedicine, vol. 2, no. 7, 2015, accessed 8 Aug. 2016.
  2. “Foldit.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., 25 May 2016, accessed 8 Aug. 2016.
  3. “What is the purpose of Open Data?” Brussels Smart City. The Smart City Portal of the Brussels-Capital Region, 24 March 2016, accessed 8 Aug. 2016.
  4. – La ville accessible à tous. Handimap, 2016, accessed 8 Aug. 2016.