When anybody says data science, one can immediately associate complicated technical knowledge with the term. Data scientists are considered to be highly technical professionals that develop incredible theories, analytics, algorithms etc. based on data. And data immediately takes the mind towards the business world.
However, data science has roots way beyond the business world. It may be a technical concept but it is beautiful in the way it can be used to solve problems. On the other hand, isn’t almost every field of life producing data? Even our own personal lives produce data that our minds collect and we develop insights into the future. Therefore, any field of life where one can analyze collected data and problem solving is involved, data science can be used.
In today’s blog, I would like to discuss the use of data science for social purposes.
New Social Problems
We live in a complex world. With the introduction of advanced technologies, machine culture, smartphones, and so much more that makes our lives easier, we have developed a complicated environment in our daily lives. Although if used rightly, it has solved a lot of social problems in the world. People around the globe are more connected, there is awareness of what is happening in different parts of the world, and privileged individuals are able to reach out to the underprivileged ones. However, when not used rightly or even generally, this complicated and more connected environment also generates social problems of a new kind. For example, machines are replacing manpower, digital world making people’s lives more exposed, etc.
How Can Data Science be Used for Solving Social Problems?
If newer technologies are creating social problems of a new kind, then we can also harness the power of advanced technologies to solve them. Data science has amazing scope for finding solutions to problems in the academic, commercial, and NGO industries. It can be used to study human behavior in varying social situations and overcome the challenges faced by this generation.
There are also many existing social problems that can be managed using data science. For example, poverty, mental health etc.
How is Social Data Science Different?
Data science for social purposes is not as much different in concept. Rather, it is just not the usual path taken by data scientists. The more typical business industries have a rising demand for data scientists and most professionals will seek opportunities with them. So when a data scientist decides to work for social good, they may need to take initiative on their own. But there are plenty of options if one starts searching.
There are annual conventions and projects that bring together data scientists from different parts of the world and provide them opportunities to use their skills for social good.
One platform that comes to mind and does similar work is DataKind. The organization invites volunteers to use data science for the service of humanity. DataKind has chapters and you may be able to find one near you.
DataKind helps social data scientists come together in two ways. Experts can attend the DataDive that is a marathon of events over weekends. Or they can get selected for the DataCorps. The DataCorps helps pro bono data scientists to connect with organizations responsible for social change. They may be able to participate in long-term projects that are working for change within respective sectors.
Kinds of Social Problems Being Solved
If we take the inflow of data from different fields of life, you will be able see endless opportunities for using data science to help humanity. Following are a few examples of how we are currently using data science for social good:
- Improving sustainable tourism
- Connecting patients with doctors
- Optimizing incident response in an area
- Streamlining the provision of medical services
- Early police intervention
- Identifying and helping at-risk teenagers
- Returning vacant lands to productive use
- Identifying and reducing fraud in industries
- Identifying and reducing risk of certain medical issues
- Helping students enroll into colleges
- Working for disaster relief
- Identifying gaps in people skills to reduce unemployment
- Data analytics to improve environment
Why Become a Social Data Scientist?
As the title suggests: it is good karma. Using one’s skills to do good in this world can be extremely satisfying. If we can make other people’s lives better, we feel exceptionally better about our own.
Apart from personal and spiritual benefits, the world needs more and more people coming together to make a positive change. There are plenty of social causes on a global scale and not all of them get the attention they require.
If we can bring technical minds like data scientists on a platform for social change, we can make positive changes. Many social problems are complex. Victims of these problems can be helped through many methods but often the problem itself can’t be eliminated. However, we can use the power of data to accomplish it.
For example, data can be analyzed to predict the number of at-risk teenagers within a year and what measures can be taken to help them. However, it can also be used to predict the issues that develop at-risk teenagers. If we can get to the root of these issues, we can reduce the overall number of at-risk teenagers. A similar working can be applied to varying social causes plaguing our world.
In conclusion, we often have to think outside of the box; breakthrough the limitations to become creative. The same can be said about data scientists. So many of them are working within the business sectors and doing great work. But they can go beyond the typical applications of their skills and make the world a better place to live for many people. Data scientists are trained to think outside of the box, so can be convinced to take social actions. Furthermore, their amazing abilities to interpret complex data sets will be incredibly useful for complicated social causes.
If you are a data scientist, find initiatives through which you can help. Good luck!!