So really what DO you get when you cross a Data Scientist and a Conscience?
Answer: Data Without Borders.
“As we all know, the world is inundated with data about practically everything we do, from where we are to who we know to what we eat, and it’s an extremely exciting time to be working in a field trying to make sense of all of it. However, as I and others have pointed out, there’s a lot of effort in our discipline put toward what I feel are sort of “bourgeois” applications of data science, such as using complex machine learning algorithms and rich datasets not to enhance communication or improve the government, but instead to let people know that there’s a 5% deal on an iPad within a 1 mile radius of where they are. In my opinion, these applications bring vanishingly small incremental improvements to lives that are arguably already pretty awesome.
On the other hand there are lots of NGOs and non-profits out there doing wonderful things for the world, from rehabilitating criminals, to battling hunger, to providing clean drinking water. However, they’re increasingly finding themselves with more and more data about their practices, their clients, and their missions that they don’t have the resources or budgets to analyze. At the same time, the data /dev communities love hacking together weekend projects where we play with new datasets or build helpful scripts, but they usually just culminate in a blog post or some Twitter buzz. Wouldn’t it be rad if we could get these two sides together?
To bridge this gap between the people with data and the people who know what to do with it, I’m proposing a sort of Data Without Borders program (or something snappier sounding / less trademarked. Suggestions welcome.). The plan is to round up data folk who want to do something meaningful with some of their spare time and match them up with non-profits / small companies who need data services. Need a statistical analysis done? We’re there. Are you launching a new service and want to collect data on it but don’t know how or what to collect? We’ve got you. Are you an NGO who just doesn’t have any idea what data’s out there or what data you already have? We can help you out.
I’m hoping to roll out an initial Hack Day / match-up event in the early Fall, so keep an eye on this page for updates. If you’re interested in helping or getting involved, feel free to head over to Data Without Borders and sign up for the e-mail list or just contact me directly. Right now we’re looking for a) data / dev people who want to get involved in working with NGOs b) NGOs who need, or suspect they need, help with data c) data people who can help NGOs audit their proposals for this program. Heck, if you just think it’s a good idea drop a line and let me know.”
Surprised by the response he got after the post above, here is what Porway said on a follow up post:
“Well that was awesomely unexpected.
What I thought would be a casual blog post about a project I hoped to quietly roll out in the fall became a lightning rod for some of the most enthusiastic, engaged, and socially conscious data folk that I ever could have imagined. As of my writing this, over 300 of you have shown your interest in this initiative by signing up to stay in the loop on the Data Without Borders email list. Considering I envisioned 20 of us sitting around a borrowed office to tackle this problem, that turnout seems incredible to me. In addition, I’ve been getting emails from around the globe from people with amazing socially conscious tech projects and an unbridled enthusiasm for using tech and data to help others. To all of you, whether you’re an excel ninja working with disenfranchised communities or just an interested observer, thank you for signing up and getting involved.”
About Data Without Borders
Data Without Borders seeks to match non-profits in need of data analysis with freelance and pro bono data scientists who can work to help them with data collection, analysis, visualization, or decision support.
Big companies like Google and Amazon recognize the importance of dedicated data science teams and can support fulltime analysts, but non-profits, though they may have rich and interesting datasets, don’t have the resources to capitalize on their data or may not even know the value of the data they already collect.
Data Without Borders aims to close that gap through a data scientist exchange, bringing exciting new problems to the data community and helping to solve social, environmental, and community problems alongside non-profits and NGOs.
If you’re a non-profit who could use some data analysis or a data junkie who wants to pitch in and help, join our mailing list and we’ll keep you up to date on the status of the project (We never spam and we won’t share your e-mail address with anyone!)
Data Without Borders is comprised of a group of conscientious data scientists, NPO/NGO gurus, do-gooder CIOs, and dedicated organizers. We are based out of New York City but look for data problems far and wide.
Contact Data Without Borders
He’s a data scientist and machine learning enthusiast living in New York City looking for new ways to help machines make sense of things. He’s completely enamored with DIY electronics projects, social and ubiquitous computing, and anything that brings a hint of art to technology. @jakeporway
Joshua is working to become a Data Scientist with focus on Analytics, Big Data, Machine Learning, and Statistics. His passion for Data and Information are second to none. He is a certified IBM Cognos Expert with more than 10 years experience in Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing, Analtyics, IT Management, Software Engineering and Supply Chain Performance Management with Fortune 500 companies. He has specializations in Analytics, Mobile Reporting, Performance Management, and Business Analysis.
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