Data scientists are convening in Chicago this weekend, putting their smarts to work for local charitable organizations. This is the fourth DataDive event since the initiative debuted last fall in New York City, with subsequent events in San Francisco and Washington, DC.
DataDive is representative of the growing outreach trend among business professionals. Think Doctors Without Borders, CIOs Without Borders, and Engineers Without Borders, for example.
DataDive's organizer, New York City-based DataKind, is all about "using data in the service of humanity." That sounds a bit corny, perhaps, but I like the concept. It's exciting to think about what a group of data-savvy analysts can achieve in a weekend.
"It's so clear we're living in the middle of a data revolution," Jake Porway, DataKind's executive director, told the Chicago Tribune
. "The cost of analyzing data has dropped so low that the average person can download terabytes of government data... and, from their bedroom, fire up a thousand computers to process it."
Why not harness such power and put it to really great use for those who can't do it themselves? I see no reason not to. The outcomes of the DataDive events in New York City and San Francisco have been pretty cool.
As reported by the Tribune, in New York,
data scientists created data maps so that the New York Civil Liberties Union could readily visualize the locations of "stop and frisk" incidents and determine whether blacks were disproportionately targeted by the police policy. In San Francisco, data scientists teamed with Mobilizing Health, a group that connects rural patients with doctors, to assess patterns in cellphone requests made by community health workers and monitor trends in doctors' prescriptions.
In Chicago, 100 data scientists will team with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, the Children's Memorial Hospital, and Enlace, a community support organization. The city itself will participate in the DataDive, and the federal government is sending representatives, too, according to the Tribune, citing an official statement from Chris Vein, deputy CTO for government innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:
The Chicago data dive is a great example of what can happen when government agencies make troves of data more accessible to the public, and when concerned citizens, data scientists and community organizations come together to take advantage of those data sets.
While DataKind grows in reputation and spreads its goodness, one of things Porway said he'd like to do next is "make social-oriented data science jobs competitive with comparable positions on Wall Street," according to the Tribune.
"Not everyone gets the warm fuzzies from doing quant stuff. But we really want to provide opportunities for every level of engagement to work with us," he said.
As a native Chicagoan, let me extend an open-armed welcome from the City of Big Shoulders to DataKind and all its affiliated data scientists.
If a DataDive came to your city, what sorts of organizations and projects might the data scientists team with? Share your ideas on the message board below.