Introducing Data Without Borders - Pro Bono Data Analysis
Data without Borders is an initiative to help nonprofits and non-governmental organizations take advantage of powerful data analysis in order to create change. Their mission is “ to match non-profits in need of data analysis with freelance and pro bono data scientists who can work to help them with data collection, analysis, visualization, or decision support.”
Many organizations do not even realize how valuable data available from outside organizations or data that they have already collected can be. There may be surprising insights to be found in publicly accessible government data or in the constituent data an organization collects through its fundraising efforts. Data analysis can mine meaning out of large databases of information, finding patterns and connections that inform future work. Data analysis can also uncover information that otherwise would be hidden, like the work of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group in discovering and documenting the extent of atrocities.
DWB focuses on not-for-profit organizations with a need to sift through large amounts of data. Without DWB’s help, this sort of data analysis can be cost-prohibitive as it relies on teams of dedicated scientists and highly-skilled analysts.
The concept of using high-powered data analysis for social good came from Jake Porway, a “data scientist and machine learning enthusiast” in a post on his blog. You can also read his description of the reasoning behind the project from the UK Guardian’s Datablog. From that initial kernel, a full organization has grown (although if you’re interested in designing their logo, you can still get in on the action) and their first data crunching event is coming up soon.
DWB is organizing the inaugural Data Without Borders Datadive for this October. The event will take place over the weekend of October 14-16th in New York City to new and meaningful insight from the data of participating NGO’s and non-profits. They are actively seeking both NGOs and nonprofits with datasets and participants who want to jump into analysing them. If you can’t make the New York Datadive, you can go to one of the other events that they have in the works by signing up for their mailing list, or follow @datanoborders on Twitter.
Data Without Borders shares some similarities with Statistics without Borders, a group with a narrower focus. Operating under the aegis of the American Statistical Association, the all-volunteer SWB provides “pro bono statistical consulting and assistance to organizations and government agencies in support of these organizations' not-for-profit efforts to deal with international health issues”.
The ease of collecting information means that potentially useful data is proliferating. The advanced methods and tools of data analysis can derive meaning out of these seemingly unrelated data. The promise of organizations like Data Without Borders is to unearth that significance for groups working on creating social good.