Over the past summer, Ghani led a University of Chicago initiative called the Data Science for Social Good fellowship, in which teams of students from across the country worked with nonprofit and government agencies to help them solve some pressing problems using data. The summer program — which was funded by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and includes Schmidt, as well as dozens industry data scientists and University of Chicago faculty among its advisors, mentors and staff — came together pretty quickly, Ghani said, but is part of a long-term effort to attack policy issues with data.
I had a chance to see a compendium of the projects during a presentation the students gave at the SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Mining and Data Discovery in Chicago in August. An abbreviated list of the applications includes: helping Cook County keep track of abandoned properties; managing supply and demand for Chicago’s bike-sharing system; optimizing public transportation routes and schedules; optimizing garbage collection; working with emergency rooms; predicting crime; and, perhaps my favorite, helping the Nurse Family Partnership measure the effectiveness of its program that provides guidance to at-risk first-time mothers.
How Big Data Will Change the Face of Philanthropy, WSJ, December 15, 2013.