Data for Good: data-driven projects for social good

Data for Good is an exciting new non-profit seeking to highlight the various data science projects and resources that can ultimately contribute to the social good.

By Grant Marshall, July 2014

Data for Good is a new non-profit seeking to show off the more altruistic data science projects and resources that are out there. By using a format similar to Hacker News or Reddit, users are able to submit links to relevant sites showing off how data science can provide social good. Projects posted to Data for Good are supposed to be approachable to audiences wider than just data scientists, with the intent being to show decision-makers in governments what data can do for them.

Word Cloud of Post Titles on Data for Good

Figure 1: Word Cloud of Post Titles on Data for Good

The projects shown on the site are quite diverse and cover a number of topics, from APIs, to videos, to reports showing how cities were able to use data to balance their budgets. As we can see above, there is a focus on projects that empower “citizens” or contribute back to the “community”. These socially oriented terms are what dominate the titles of the projects that get posted to the site, showing that the site is adhering to its goal of promoting data science projects aimed at providing social good.

For example, on the front page of the site right now is CrisisNET, an API for accessing crisis data from multiple sources in a single standard format. Another example of the sort of post that would go on Data for Good is this video showing how the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics tackled the problem of illegal grease disposal using data science in New York City.

Data for Good Posts over Time

Figure 2: Number of Posts to Data for Good Over the Past Two Weeks

As the diagram above (created July 22, 2014) shows, though the number of posts for the first week was inconsistent from day to day (they were largely by only two unique users), over the past few days, the number of posts per day has stabilized. In addition to this, the posts are now coming from a variety of users, showing that the site is beginning to develop a more involved community. This is a good sign for the site, and hopefully this trend of community involvement continues.

This project comes at a very auspicious time for data science focused on providing social good, with KDD 2014’s theme being Data Science for Social Good and DataKind seeking to connect data scientists and NGOs for social good. Interest in applying data science toward to improving society seems to be gaining momentum.

Overall, Data for Good is tackling the noble mission of showcasing just what data can do for society. If they continue to grow and a community forms around the site, Data for Good could grow into a valuable resource for discovering opportunities and resources in the data science community for socially minded data scientists.