Data Philanthropy is Good for Business

Give Data as you give Blood. Global Pulse, an innovation initiative in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, wants to analyse private data for the public good.  The idea is to find patterns in data coming from private companies, and share those findings.  For that, they have to find a way enterprises can deliver their users trends but warrant the anonymity of the information (to protect user’s privacy), and also in a way they don’t loose corporate competitiveness.
Check the Forbes article ‘Data Philanthropy is Good for Business’:

Corporations today are mining this data to gain a real-time understanding of their customers, identify new markets, and make investment decisions. This is the data that powers business, which the World Economic Forum has described as a new asset class.[…]

Consider: MIT researchers have found evidence that changes in mobile phone calling patterns can be used to detect flu outbreaks; A Telefónica Research team has demonstrated that calling patterns can be used to identify the socioeconomic level of a population, which in turn may be used to infer its access to housing, education, healthcare, and basic services such as water and electricity; and researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and Columbia University have used data from Digicel, Haiti’s largest cell phone provider, to determine the movement of displaced populations after the earthquake, aiding the distribution of resources.

At Global Pulse, an innovation initiative of the UN Secretary-General, we believe that analysis of patterns within big data could revolutionize the way we respond to events such as global economic shocks, disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. Our team of data scientists, open source hackers, and international development experts functions the way an R&D lab does: asking questions, formulating and testing hypotheses, building prototypes and collaborating with partners within and outside the United Nations to develop methods for harnessing real-time data to gain a real-time understanding of human well being.

We’re in discussions with corporations about how their digital services could be used as human sensor networks to detect the early warning signs that communities are losing jobs, getting sick, not getting enough food, or struggling to make ends meet. Now we need to find a way for the private sector to share, safely and anonymously, some of what it knows about its customers to help give the public sector a badly needed edge in protecting citizens. It’s the concept that has been called “data philanthropy.”[…]

The companies that engage with us, however, don’t regard this work as an act of charity. They recognize that population well being is key to the growth and continuity of business. For example, what if you were a company that invested in a promising emerging market that is now being threatened by a food crisis that could leave your customers unable to afford your products and services? And what if it turned out that expert analysis of patterns in your own data could have revealed all along that people were in trouble, while there was still time to act?

Data philanthropy could make a real difference, and it makes good business sense as well.

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