Bloomberg the popular Data organization in New York, hosted its yearly Data For Good Exchange conference on Sunday, Sept 24th, 2017. The theme for the event was “With great data comes great responsibility” focusing on how data can be used to solve public interest problems. The event was gathered by professionals from different walks of life currently using, interested or curious about data. Also, diverse speakers from different sectors of the society shared how data is being applied currently in their various fields. The day opened with passionate keynote speakers sharing current applications of data to assist in hopeful research for cures for various health issues to recent uses of data in forwarding social causes like gun control regulations. John Kahan, General Manager, Customer Data & Analytics Microsoft, gave an emotional opening presentation on his quest to combat SID (Sudden Infant Death) based on the death of his baby son, Aaron 14 years ago. John has partnered with SIDs Research Fellow fund at Seattle Children’s Hospital to support their cause, he explained the important role data is playing and can play in providing information to help combat SIDs. The other Keynote speaker was Sarah Tofte, Director or Research and Implementation at Everytown, for Gun Safety. Sarah shared on the role data played in helping create policy’s for implementation of good gun laws across the country. The rest of the day was packed with different break out sessions and topics geared towards current initiatives and breakthroughs with data.
Other topics that were discussed ranged from Building Open data Dashboards for hyper local government, to topics on Ethics and Fairness when it comes to using data in society to influence policy, still other topics touched upon were in the health sector. While there was so much said by diverse speakers overall recurring themes throughout the conference was the importance and challenge of ground truth data, data that wasn’t biased and trustworthy data. Each speaker reflected on situations that had required the above stated themes in different scenarios the importance of them and their effects in the outcomes of research due to the enabling power or lack thereof of in each circumstance. Like in the case of NYC 311 and regulating the data that was coming in through various media outlet to make informed decisions in creating timely solutions. Also during the presentation for Fairness – Aware Predictive Analytics in Child Protective Services: Development, Validation and Implementation, the speakers mentioned challenges where the data received was biased in regards to certain races in some circumstances and also mentioned how in other cases data had enabled them to increase number of children that had been helped from predictive data that they had employed into their preventive process.
In another session Data driven resilience, one of the speakers Allen Estivalet of WSP an architectural construction company in NYC, spoke on resourcefulness of data to predict potential erosion areas in construction paths but also the challenges and constraints of not being able to use best data for quality control due to time to validate and vet data with traditional superpowers and stakeholders in the industry. Which led to his point that data and it’s visualization is a crucial tool in the early stages of projects to help stakeholders see the importance of decisions that need to be made and what to prioritize. Also being cognizant of restrictions due to standards from government and how data can help bring government up to speed with modern techniques of doing things.
Overall the event topics seemed to correlate with the topics and conversations that take place in the LIS 654 Information and profession course and the Data Analytics and Visualization program at Pratt Institute. The Bloomberg event was created to educate and demonstrate how data is being used for social good across many sectors here in our city, state and the world at large. The idea of information, its recording and use in society and how it has and continues to impact us is important to promote the how and why of what is being done. This manifestation and clarity of importance helps make the case during policy making and other situations where there is need for justification of the application and relevance of data. It was impressive to experience the discussions as well as see first hand at this event from a wide array of industry professionals currently in the information field, how Information topics like archiving, records and methodologies used in research and other topics discussed in class were being used. The conversations that have occurred in the LIS 654 course class have been focused on information, how it has been generated over the years and archived and most especially its role in society. The understanding of how information has impacted culture has also been touched upon and with the rise of the digital age and also the impact digital media has in restructuring traditional ways of recording and archiving information. Through the years information has had the power to shape societies at large. Moving forward, it will be imperative to take a look at how data and information is being handled and explore if these techniques are still up to date and can meet the need. And also how best to capture and deploy all this information being harnessed at an unbelievable rate viable ways. Also other things to think of is the way data is being archived, will these be viable methods in the next 15 to 20 years?
With the increase of Big data being generated from multiple media outlets the challenge remains how all this data can be collected, processed and manipulated in a fair way to create lasting positive impact and change across our societies. To achieve this there will need to be increase in avenues where data can presented and collected to and from all stakeholders in an understandable way so they can understand the importance of data and make proper use of the information generated from it. To this effort, while there are many unanswered questions to data, its generation and possible applications, it is encouraging to see like minded professionals gather to reason and push towards a world with more answers for questions being asked with the aid of data.
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