Emerging Trend: Data Scientist as Humanitarian Worker

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Harnessing the Power of Big Data with Geospatial Mapping

The idea of data as philanthropy received a Silicon Valley boost this week when Informatica and Cloudera announced plans to support the non-profit, DataKind. Both Informatica, which specializes in data integration, and Cloudera, a Hadoop analytics company, will jointly sponsor DataKind programs and projects.

DataKind applies data science to world problems by making data scientists available to work with governments and other mission-organizations that are working on issues such as education, vaccine delivery and poverty eradication. For example, Bayes Impact created a model that would help reduce fraud while maximizing loans to honest people for micro-financier, Zidisha.

Big Data has a long track-record of social justice work. For instance, last year, ITBE’s Don Tennant wrote about Big Data’s use in the fight against human trafficking. Earlier this year, civic technologist Matt Stempeck proposed businesses make data donations to non-profits, which prompted my earlier post about the business value of data philanthropy.

The concept seems to be taking hold. In addition to this significant announcement, there’s now a specialized site — Data for Good — which highlights data projects designed to foster social good. If you want to read more, Venture Beat published a great profile on the founders.

This week, NetApp Marketing Manager Anjali Acharya penned a Forbes column outlining five ways Big Data can serve a higher purpose:

  1. Predicting food shortages
  2. Helping the homeless
  3. Mapping the death toll in wars
  4. Reducing high school dropouts
  5. Predicting crime

As I discussed yesterday, Big Data is also helping aid workers determine where Ebola outbreaks are happening and the best locations for new emergency response centers. It’s also, somewhat controversially, helping national governments such as Senegal determine when and where to close borders. It seems to be working: The World Health Organization declared Senegal Ebola free late Thursday.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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