Rotterdam and RSM organise challenging hackathon to improve city

The City of Rotterdam and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) organised a challenging hackathon exploring the visitors of the city centre. For 24 hours, starting on 30 April 2015, around 80 master students from RSM’s MSc in Business Information Management programme developed a data-driven solution to make Rotterdam’s city centre an even more enjoyable place for local, national and international visitors.

The hackathon, labelled #HackRdam, targeted determinants of visitors’ stays in Rotterdam’s city centre. Students from RSM’s MSc in Business Information Management (BIM) programme were challenged to come up with self-developed, well-motivated directions for further improvement, based on actual data about visitors’ impressions, sensor recordings, crime, public transportation, littering, weather conditions, tweets and reviews of transactions – all within 24 hours. Students provided important insights into how visitors experience the city centre of Rotterdam, and made various suggestions as to how to enhance Rotterdam’s attractiveness.

Open data, social media and geodata

City officials were impressed by the “enthusiasm and creativity” of RSM’s master students, who still had enough energy to deliver a catchy pitch at the end of the day. Jochem Cooiman, Advisor Planning and Business at the City of Rotterdam, said: "I never expected the students to combine their knowledge on Rotterdam, open data, social media and geodata (QGIS) as well as they did.” Cooiman continues: “Where I hoped for some of them to try out techniques for mapping, almost all of them used QGIS. They used Twitter as well as Tripadvisor and WeatherOnline. The results showed loads of creativity as well as good teamwork. What they achieved in 24 hours is impressive.”  The results will be part of the continued efforts of the City to support data-driven policy making and evaluation.

Intelligent and original results

The MSc participants applauded the learning gain. “The hackathon was a very challenging, but a fun team experience, in which we got an excellent chance to demonstrate the skills learned during the course,” said BIM student Wieger van Rinkhuyzen. “I’m certain that everyone struggled at some point, but still everyone was able to present very intelligent and original results.”

Urban big data research

The lecturers of the course, Dr Jan van Dalen and Dr Arthur Carvalho, were equally impressed by the various contributions. “Apart from the efforts students commonly make to meet course objectives, it’s heart-warming to see how they eagerly jump on a new problem, which has only been broadly defined, and come with relevant, appealing results, under stressful conditions,” said Dr Van Dalen.

The City of Rotterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam started a research collaboration recently, entitled Knowledge Lab ‘Urban Big Data’, aimed at using big data in urban contexts. Such data, typically related to very different processes, are increasingly important for local authorities to develop and evaluate policies, assess the consequences of public interventions, monitor city processes or take action where deemed necessary. The hackathon was a spin-off of this collaboration involving master students RSM’s MSc in Business Information Management programme.  It is also closely related to the Erasmus Centre for Data Science and Business Analytics,  which supports organisations in turning data into business solutions.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is a top tier European business school and ranked among the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in the Amsterdam Zuidas business district and in Taipei, Taiwan.

For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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