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Data for good: connecting organizations with data experts to solve humanitarian issues

19 Jan 2022
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Data for good: connecting organizations with data experts to solve humanitarian issues

Data for good: connecting organizations with data experts to solve humanitarian issues

05 June 2020

Data for good started out as a social movement several years ago when it sought to understand how data science could be used to address a range of humanitarian issues. Leading this movement was DataKind, a collaborative network of organizations. Basically, the idea of such custom projects is that they bring together high-impact organizations or initiatives and leading data scientists to work together in the service of certain humanitarian projects.

Most frequently, projects that qualify as data for good initiatives fall under one of the following categories:

– The end recipient of the data product is a non-profit or government agency.

Skilled data experts volunteer for projects to develop and deliver the data product.

Data tools are provided to organizations for free or at a heavily subsidized cost.

Educational training is provided to improve the data skills of an under-served community.

Since its debut, a number of institutions and businesses have joined the movement, offering their services for causes ranging from helping the homeless, determining which neighborhoods are more dangerous in a city or determining humanitarian hot spots where aid should be directed. These are some of the ways that data, analytics and AI have been harnessed for certain initiatives.

Companies such as SAS, a leading analytics service provider, have joined the movement and are participating heavily in projects by creating technologies to support humanitarian efforts. For example, SAS partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which needed to find large amounts of sheet metal to rebuild the homes of thousands of displaced families following an earthquake in Nepal. SAS was quickly able to access the global trade data that the UN collects every year. Decades of trade data from more than 200 countries was analyzed within minutes which provided answers regarding the area’s top producers and exporters of fabricated metal. A purchase order for the materials was then quickly placed.

Another example is the Data Science Institute of the Columbia University which has joined the data for good movement. As part of its Data for Good Scholars program, the Institute is pairing undergraduate students with non-profit, community organizations and government agencies, most of which are not familiar the data science field. The students must take the lead in using data techniques to help to solve the various social problems confronting these institutions.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, several institutions and businesses have provided data and tools to help to analyze and understand the trends and characteristics of the pandemic and how it can best be tackled. Some of the initiatives are as follows.

The American Statistical Association has responded to this crisis by establishing an ASA community – COVID-19 Data, Statistics, Research, and Discussion – to support coronavirus/COVID-19 research. ASA has also partnered with the University of Connecticut and others to sponsor a webinar series on data science in response to COVID-19.

Elsevier, a global information analytics business specializing in science and health, is opening their database containing research and health information to the public.

Salesforce has announced that using their Tableau software they have developed a free data resource hub to help organizations see and understand coronavirus data quickly, using data from Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Splunk, a data and analytics platform, has created a dashboard that enables others to add their own data about the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook has launched Disease Prevention Maps to help inform disease forecasting efforts and protective measures. The maps show in aggregate where people are traveling and interacting between regions.

Data for good initiatives have been in place in several countries around the world. If you are a data science expert/business looking to offer your services or an organization looking to use data science for a project, you can check to see whether there is such an initiative in your area.




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