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How Data Philanthropy is Bridging the Gap Between Tech and Social Good

Although we have a huge amount of data, still we are not able to fully address the needs of underrepresented and underserved populations around the world. An issue that the United Nations have been trying to solve with their recent creation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the overall growth of the climate, people, and the planet. In order to achieve these targets, public institutions and private companies need to get actively involved and collaborate. As access to proper technology, data, and appropriate analysis become critical tasks at this stage, the concept of data philanthropy comes also into action. The next step should be that private companies start collaborating together so that they can donate data and create efficient resources to solve global challenges.

Unlimited flow of data

Stats reveal that we produce almost 2.5 quintillion data bytes every day and the amount is further increasing exponentially. This huge amount of data can assist in finding appropriate solutions to social issues. Studies reveal that only 0.5% data out of this amount is available for analysis throughout the world. It means we still have many opportunities to fully explore this incredible digital universe in a profitable and impactful manner.

Why are we not finding right solutions to rise?

It’s a well-known fact that private companies around the world possess the majority of essential data and they utilize it to just drive efficient business decisions. However, the same data can be utilized to serve many other purposes as well.
Let us take a simple example. In 2013 Orange Telecom launched its Data 4 Development challenge where researchers were supposed to collect anonymized data over mobile networks in Senegal. As a result, they collected details on where people were travelling during variable weather conditions, holidays and work days throughout the year. After this, they analyzed public health datasets and were able to collect information about patterns related to malaria infections with population migrations. With these details, researchers found some insights about when outbreaks can occur in society so that local service providers can take preventive actions on time.
Now, if we suppose that only 1% of data out of all the privately owned 10 Billion Terabytes was made accessible to researchers, then they would be able to make great changes in the society.

How can tech companies help?

Tech companies are capable enough to power up this data philanthropy movement by simply developing new techniques to generate important missing data, donating data or even better, donate the time or the skills to analyze data for social good. For example, stats reveal that almost 350 million people all around the world could be absent from the essential public census data and it directly leads to 25% boost in the global poverty. The best idea to fill this technology gap is to initiate collaborative movement among various international institutions and tech companies so that much better solutions to social issues can be developed.

Data philanthropy gaining momentum

If the exponential rate of data production continues to rise, we may not have to wait too much longer before data philanthropy is something that every company will consider as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR).

For example, at John Snow Labs we’ve partnered last year with London’s SHM Foundation to help with Project Khuluma – a mobile phone support group initiative to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of HIV positive adolescents in South Africa.

Tackling mental health is a major global health challenge. Nearly 75% of the 450 million people worldwide with a mental illness live in the developing world, and 85% of these people have no access to treatment. The social and economic costs are enormous.

Our global data operations experts’ team contributed data products and data science specialists to analyze over 40,000 messages using machine learning and natural language processing.

This was all part of a much wider Data Philanthropy Program, which is part of our company’s mission and culture, allowing us to make a positive impact while using our domain expertise for social good.

More awareness about data philanthropy is urgently required for humanitarian purposes and our hope is to help as many nonprofits projects, organisations and social issues as possible.

In order to collect more details, you can read the brilliant article written by Matt Stempeck on the Harvard Business Review. Here we have mentioned few aspects to initiate this campaign:

• Go through inventory data, technology and services and identify what is easier or harder to share publically.
• Make analysis about who can take benefits from this data movement or who will face harm.
• Start active conversations with organizations such as Data 4 SDGs or U.N. Global Pulse to find possible options to collaborate.
• Find ways to distribute data and services. It is believed that long-term collaborations can be more fruitful for public organizations.
• Make efforts to improve privacy by simply anonymizing you Big Data.
• Follow Open Access Terms for publishing new research results so that researchers can easily get new information.
It doesn’t matter whether you are planning to donate technology, tools, analytics skills or big data for the Data Philanthropy movement because all efforts in this direction will provide valuable insights into the future of our culture, environment and planet. We don’t have the scarcity of information or intelligence; all that is required is collaboration to lead some positive changes in society.

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