New data exchange promotes partnerships that use privately held data for public good

Mon, 2017-01-30 16:15 -- Compassionate C...

Here's another compelling example of what big data can lead to – this one from The Government Lab (The GovLab) at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering. If you haven't been paying attention to the potential for data collaboration, this should be an eye-opener. – Philip Bane

The GovLab recently launched  to encourage the formation of public-private partnerships in which participants from different sectors -- private companies, research institutions, government agencies, and others -- exchange data to help solve pressing public problems.     

"Recent years have seen exponential growth in the amount of data generated and stored around the world, and there is increasing acknowledgement that big data could play a key role in helping to address issues such as world hunger, disaster relief, and disease prevention if data were made widely available to those in positions to glean insights from the information and act upon it," said Beth Simone Noveck, the Jerry M. Hultin Professor at NYU Tandon and director of The GovLab.

The GovLab has catalogued dozens of cases in which data collaboratives are already being used for the public good – a project involving Council Associate Partner Intel among them. Here's a look at a few:

  • More effective impact assessment and evaluation, such as occurred when Nielsen and the World Food Program used data collected via mobile phones to better monitor food insecurity and allocate resources
  • Increased situational awareness and response, as demonstrated by a joint initiative between Orbital Insights and the World Bank to use satellite imagery to measure and track poverty
  • Cutting-edge prediction and forecasting, as shown when Intel and the Earth Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, employed satellite imagery to predict drought  and develop targeted interventions for farmers and government agencies

Connecting the dots
Stefaan Verhulst, The GovLab's co-founder, director of research and head of its Data Collaboratives Initiative, says the dozens of diverse examples that are featured on the site demonstrate the potential of data collaboration as an emerging model of inter-sector digital philanthropy.

"In the coming months and years, they will be essential vehicles for harnessing the vast stores of privately held data toward the public good," Verhulst said.

Natalia Adler, a data, research, and policy planning specialist at UNICEF and UNICEF Data Collaboratives project lead, agrees.  "At UNICEF, we're dealing with the world's most complex problems affecting children," she said. "Data collaboratives offer an exciting opportunity to tap previously inaccessible datasets and mobilize a wide range of data expertise to advance child rights around the world. It's all about connecting the dots."

In addition to lessons gleaned from the 70-plus examples of exchanging corporate data to improve lives, the site provides guidance for designing and implementing a data collaborative, including steps to take to avoid the risks involved with sharing data.

Related topics:
New HUD guide highlights data-driven strategies to improve school performance
Lessons from Asheville: Solving community problems with data


This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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