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

IMB Uses New Science for Social GoodThe International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is a major research organization that focuses on computer wear and consultations. They also study cognitive computing and information technology. As of 2017, IBM holds the most patents of any business in the United States, making it a hub for progressive thinking. Aware of their resources, IBM announced their new program, Science for Social Good, on June 6. This program encourages IBM to partner with scientists and nonprofit organizations solving social issues through a more modern lens.

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is one of the organizations IBM is working with. The Cary Institute’s mission is to research and address the problem of the Zika virus in Central and South America. When the Zika virus arrived in Brazil through mosquitos, it gave babies many life-threatening diseases, such as brain under-development. Without a widely distributed vaccine in countries where only high-class citizens have access to health care, many unborn children are at risk.

Science for Social Good is assisting The Cary Institute in “applying machine learning and data science tools to identify primate species that could become animal reservoirs for Zika” in order to contain and combat the disease. In a short period of time, IBM technology helped pinpoint areas where Zika is most prevalent. Then, they created  through mobile phone apps that map out these locations, allowing citizens to stay more informed and cautious. This technology also identified primate species that carry the disease in the wild.

In addition to The Cary Institute, IBM is assisting the emergency food service St. John’s Bread and Life. IBM will create an artificial intelligence supply chain model of emergency food operations and share it with cloud computing technology. Thus, Bread and Life can share its most advanced practices with other organizations to better help those in need. The digitization of new organizations would make both education on hunger issues and providing aid to the needy much easier.

“Science for Social Good is built on the premise that applied science and technology can solve the world’s toughest problems,” reads IBM’s research page. With companies like these beginning to take a more globalized approach to problem-solving, we may see more research projects like Science for Social Good in the future.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr