We’re living in revolutionary times. Nearly every interaction that occurs between our world and each other now occurs with a digital interface like a laptop, a cellphone or a FitBit. This digitization represents a paradigm shift in the way we’re instrumenting our world and the new bottom-up, democratized manner in which data is created and made available.
These streams of passively collected data give us access to huge new opportunities to learn about our world, but also create data sets so large and so complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. Fortunately, recent advances in technology have made capturing, analyzing, visualizing and leveraging data to make better decisions easier than ever before.
Like personal computing in the 1980’s or the Internet in the 1990’s, today’s data revolution presents a new opportunity to radically transform virtually every field for the better. New data sources and statistical tools can help identify trends, recognize inefficiencies and discover information that leads to greater impact in every area, from healthcare to urban planning. All organizations are now data organizations.
Humanitarian organizations are no exception. They’re inundated with data from the public sector, from the digital tools they use every day and by newer programs that specifically utilize mobile programs or the Internet. Yet many lack the resources to capitalize on these opportunities. These organizations rarely budget for data science, especially given that the risks can be high and potential rewards not well understood.
But we know that there are thousands of data scientists passionate about applying their professional and technical skills outside of their day jobs to improve society.
So in 2011 we launched DataKind.
DataKind harnesses the power of data science in the service of humanity. We bring together teams of data science and social sector experts on collaborative projects designed to address tough humanitarian challenges. Since our launch, our programs have mobilized more than 1,000 data scientists to contribute more than $1.5 million in pro bono services through more than 60 data science projects designed to address critical humanitarian issues.
Our volunteers have accomplished incredible things – and, perhaps just as important, they’ve demonstrated what’s possible when data is leveraged for social change. DataKind volunteer teams have:
- Designed new poverty measures for the World Bank using untapped data sources such as light levels visible from space and food prices scraped from dozens of websites to turn what had been a five-year process into a real-time evaluation that takes the guesswork out of tracking inflation rates and easily identifies isolated food crises.
- Culled refrigeration temperature patterns and shipping routes with Nexleaf to identify the best transport methods for keeping vaccines from spoiling during delivery throughout the developing world.
- Created an algorithm that uses satellite imagery to map the poorest villages in Uganda and Kenya, enabling GiveDirectly to more accurately transfer international donations to the most impoverished households trying to pursue their dreams.
Check out more examples of our efforts here.
DataKind™ harnesses the power of data science in the service of humanity. We engage data science and social sector experts on projects addressing critical humanitarian problems and lead the conversation about how data science can be applied to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Launched in 2011, DataKind is headquartered in New York City and has Chapters in Bangalore, Dublin, San Francisco, Singapore, the UK and Washington DC. More information on DataKind, our programs and our partners can be found on our website: www.datakind.org