Social GoodThe private sector primarily employs data science, a relatively new field based in technology and data analysis, to improve sales, invigorate customer services and project businesses into the future. As it is creating great value for entrepreneurship, it also has the potential to aid social good causes as professionals in the field are adapting to function in public health, social policy and international aid.

Using Data Science

One such initiative is Data Science for Social Good (DSSG), which began at the University of Chicago in 2013. The organization focuses on training people and governments to work in projects of social impact using machine learning algorithms. Effective machine learning and data science deployment can be extremely beneficial for public and private initiatives, especially as the wave of big data sweeps over every industry and the need for well-trained professionals grows daily.

The need for data-trained individuals is urgent in nonprofit organizations: “most organizations with a primarily public mission,” like NGOs, are not always able to extract the full value of the information they collect. Data science is necessary for organizations to put their time, resources and funds into the right projects, avoiding corruption and obtaining fruitful results. According to one survey, almost 90% of NGOs in the United States are collecting data but “almost half say they aren’t fully aware of the ways data can (and does) impact their work.” This is mainly because NGOs tend to lack an adequate workforce to process large quantities of data.

Applications in Action

Data Science for Social Good leverages the power of data science in projects worldwide, enhancing aid in developing countries, deterring corruption and even reducing governments’ response time to their citizens’ requests. DSSG’s most prominent project has a connection to the World Bank Group. The World Bank grants more than $30 billion yearly to developing countries, but estimates say billions are lost every year due to corruption and fraud. The role of DSSG is to analyze patterns in the World Bank’s international contract biddings to detect and prevent the diversion of funds.

In Kenya, Sanergy provides impoverished communities with “sanitation facilities,” reducing deaths that bacterial infections cause. Data Science for Social Good tries to speed up waste collection services by using data to calculate which collection routes are the most efficient. Other organizations and technology efforts also make an impact. The project HelpMum aims to reduce child and maternal mortality in Nigeria. It will partner with Google AI to better allocate resources and analyze essential data. About 2,300 children under 5 die every day in Nigeria due to a lack of access to clean and affordable birth kits, essential resources and information.

When nonprofit organizations extract value from data, it is possible to more effectively monitor activities. This technology has many new opportunities: detecting patterns in statistical models, streamlining funds to find cost-effective ways to deliver aid and launching strategic marketing campaigns for fundraising.

– Arai Yegros
Photo: Flickr