Much is being said about data privacy, amidst growing concerns over data breaches and unethical use of one’s personal data.  What is certain is that we have an enormous (and growing!) online digital footprint that should cause us to be concerned and engaged as to how our data is being used in the global marketplace.

While organizations can and should protect data, we believe they bear a far greater responsibility over that data.

How can a company be responsible with data?  A growing global movement called “Data for Good” captures the essence of what organizations must be considering right now.  Recognized by the hashtag #dataforgood, this movement is a way for people to contribute to the betterment of society using their expertise in data science to identify new and innovative ways to serve humanitarian needs.  There is very real human and monetary value that can be attributed to this movement:

  • Early detection of Sepsis, reducing the mortality rate and the cost of expensive long-term sepsis care
  • Identifying and predicting food insecurity, meeting hunger needs and reducing public health costs as a result of undernourished populations
  • Reduction of sex trafficking trade in the United States through identification of online ads targeting victims of sex trafficking.  This reduces law enforcement research time and tracking down perpetrators.

Data Democratization is another new movement, driving public and private organizations to provide #opendata access to their catalogs of data.  Municipalities, along with state and federal agencies are beginning to participate in this.  The belief is through open sharing of data, it will invite collaboration and innovation to develop new ways to use data for good. We see these efforts first hand in our home city in Nashville.

Nashville was recently chosen as one of the 16 cities that will participate in the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative, which gives mid-sized cities access to technical assistance that enables them to improve the quality of data and the use of data-driven decision-making. Robyn Mace, the Chief Data Officer for the city of Nashville, is working to expand the internal and external use of Metro’s Open Data Portal, to develop smart city strategies and services, and to support centralized analytics and business intelligence capacity-building within Metro.

When state and federal agencies join with businesses to participate in the Data for Good movement, we have the opportunity to come together to make a change. We want to engage the whole community, which is why we found it crucial to share this message with the students at MTSU during a recent speaking engagement at the Tom and Martha Boyd Ethical Leadership Week.

What we encouraged the students to do is find ways to participate in this movement.  There were several ways:

  1. Learn all they can about the practices, tools, and techniques of data science:
    • Programming languages
    • Statistical Analysis
    • Tools – Machine Learning services
    • Data Wrangling
    • Data Storytelling
    • Product and Business knowledge and intuition
  2. Apply the knowledge
  3. Use Open Data for Good

While data privacy and security are very important and should be a part of the public debate and conversation, we at Think Data Insights believe what is equally important is treating data as the asset that it truly is.  Let’s make that asset work for us.  Let’s solve real world problems with data.  Let’s be the creative, intelligent, problem-solving human beings we were made to be and go create innovative products and solutions that improve the lives of others.  It is our moral obligation to do just that. Contact us to inquire how you can join Think Data Insights in this mission to use data for good.

Ken Raetz, CEO of Think Data Insights, is an experienced data strategist with over 20 years in the field of database design and data-driven analytics solution-building.  He recently gave a lecture on the Ethical Treatment of Data in Data Monetization at the Tom and Martha Boyd Ethical Leadership Week at MTSU.