I’ve been reading a lot about how big data is or is going to revolutionize the world we live in. Yes, some of this is hype; yes, more data means more potential for statistical shenanigans and bad analysis; and yes, some changes may not necessarily be for the better (think: violation of privacy and other unethical abuses of personal data). But it’s important to recognize that data can be a powerful force for positive change in the world.
I’m not just talking about the obvious targets - health care, education, government, and so on - but a wide variety of social issues and challenges that could benefit from a data science intervention. The case for good was made quite wonderfully by Jake Porway, who compared data scientists to superheroes in a recent presentation at DataGotham:
Near the end, Jake says, “You [data scientists] have extraordinary powers that ordinary people don’t have… There are more opportunities than ever to get involved in using your skills for good.” Yes! And DataKind (the organization he co-founded) seems like a great place to start. Part of their mission statement reads as follows:
DataKind (formerly known as Data Without Borders) brings together leading data scientists with high impact social organizations through a comprehensive, collaborative approach that leads to shared insights, greater understanding, and positive action through data in the service of humanity.
It’s like Kaggle for idealists! Of course I signed up. I love a challenge, and all the better if I can make make a difference while solving it. Consider this a *nudge* to all the data-savvy activists out there. ;)