Data Science – A New Hope for Good

October 28, 2019
By

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Good triumphing over evil in the end is the stuff of every good fairy tale or Hollywood storyline, but in real life, as we all know, it’s usually the tales of political doom and gloom across the world that dominate our screens with stories of good remaining well away from the spotlight.  Good, it seems, does not make for high viewing figures.

And stories about data are no exception to this rule.

Barely a day goes by without a story alarming the general public about their privacy and how their information is being used.  Think about the investigative documentary about the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, The Great Hack.  Think about banking information leaks or how Facebook is using your personal details and preferences.

It’s easy to forget that data science is also shaping the way we live, improving lives for the better and providing services we could only have dreamed of decades ago.

And it’s for this reason, that we at Mango decided to celebrate #Data4Good week, showcasing all of the different ways data science and analytics can be used for good in the world.

When The Economist declared in 2017 that data was more valuable than oil, few people truly understood its power and how this was possible.  Fast-forward to the current day, and the picture of data usage is becoming clearer.

In September, we were fortunate enough to secure some incredible speakers at our annual EARL Conference in London who shared stories of how data science has benefited services from local communities, to healthcare and even helping progress peace talks in war stricken areas.  We have shared some of these stories via Twitter and I would urge you to take a look.

 

R in the NHS

 When it comes to healthcare, analysis and prediction can be used to better inform decisions about healthcare provision, streamline and automate tasks, dig into complex problems, and predict changes in the healthcare the NHS provides to its patients. Because of this, many non-profit organisations want to harness the power of data science.

During EARL, Edward Watkinson, an analyst, economist and data scientist currently working for the Royal Free London Hospital Group, took to the stage to explain how adopting R as the core tool on their analytical workbench for helping to run their hospitals, and show how useful it has been in the cash-strapped NHS.

You can watch Edward’s ten minute lighting talk here.

 

Helping local communities

 Another great use-case for data science being used for good, is how it can help local communities. David Baker, research and evaluation residential volunteer worker at Toynbee Hall, took to the stage at EARL to explain how Toynbee Hall has adopted R as a tool within the charity sector.

By way of background, since its inception in 1884, evidence-based research has been central to Toynbee Hall’s mission as a charity throughout East London communities. It has had a hand in creating first data visualisations for public good, publishing a series of poverty maps, and regularly engages with the local community to solve problems.

R has allowed for rapid analyses of data on a diversity of projects, at Toynbee Hall. Additionally, Baker explained how embracing an open source software allowed for the team to host a series of data hackathons, that allowed them to recruit freelance data scientists to help analyse publicly available datasets, contributing to building materials that they use in their policy advocacy campaigns.

You can catch-up on David’s talk here.

 

Some amazing work has been done through the power of data science and analytics, and it’s continually changing the world around us. These stories won’t ever make the news, but it’s reassuring to remind ourselves that sometimes, good really can triumph over evil in the real world as well as in the movies.  We hope that people are beginning to see that data science is more than just a buzzword – it’s a new hope for good.

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: RBlog – Mango Solutions.

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