Big Data Can Make A Big Difference

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Big data – the gathering and storing of large amounts of information for later analysis – is helping accelerate social good initiatives, with great results.

One company that has lent its expertise to making a difference through its data capabilities is consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton. The company’s Data Science for Social Good program covers more than 10 initiatives. It sends their scientists to hackathons and high-stakes academic games in order to give back and push data science forward and to make a difference in the world.

It recently sent its talent to a hackathon in Paris held by Polaris, a D.C.based organization focused on disrupting human trafficking for the sex slave trade.

The hackaton showed how data science can make the fight against this cruel trade more effective, effectively saving more lives.  It is estimated that 20 million people worldwide, mostly women and children, are currently kept as sex slaves.  Big data helps by determining the legitimacy of façade businesses, such as massage parlors, through their registered names.

Hacktivists automated the collection of data sources and built a risk identification algorithm. Besides, data scientists tracked usernames shared on other social networks or forums to help identify more illicit businesses in the future. Polaris had manually identified 35 businesses. The algorithm could identify 900.

“There are big, complex, hairy problems out there in the world, and data science is a great tool to break down those problems,” says Booz Allen Senior VP, Mark Jacobsohn. “If we don’t dive in and help, these issues will continue to be intractable. There’s a lot of good that data science can accomplish.”

Human trafficking is one example. Big data can also help prevent other tragedies such as mass killings. Booz Allen hacktivists have helped the Early Warning Project, an initiative of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum whose goal is a country’s risk of genocide. Booz Allen was asked to look at their data analysis approach and explore new ones to make their work more efficient and precise.

Again, an algorithm developed during a hackathon was developed to predict where this type of violence is most likely to occur not just in the present, which is what the museum has mostly been doing, but to predict occurrences within the next two years into the future.

Another area that can benefit is health. One example of that is Data Science Bowl, which yearly brings together the global data science community around a societal challenge. During the 2015-2016 edition, the Bowl focused on heart disease while the 2017 installment focused on the early detection of lung cancer.

As the world becomes more complex and challenging, data science is a powerful tool for governments and organizations to bring about positive change through the best use of technology and the people who master it.

Image credit: Booz Allen Hamilton