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over 8 years ago

Getting the good started

Today, David Lawson, Co-Founder & CEO of NewSci, shares some tips on how to approach the Big Data for Social Good Challenge.

By now you have probably heard about the Big Data for Social Good Challenge: an exciting new opportunity to change the world using your technical skills. As exciting as it is, however, it can also be a little intimidating to think of an idea big enough for big data: first, you have to come up with not just a good idea, but an idea that actually does good, and second there needs to be at least 500MB of data to analyze. Let’s get to it.

Here are some tips to get you started on applying your big data idea to the betterment of society:

  1. Big doesn’t have to be measured by the breadth of the problem. Think about challenges your community or region are facing right now. When it comes to doing good, sometimes the best place to start is in your own backyard.
  2. Look for unstructured data sources. This is often free text found in notes fields, verbatim survey responses and social media. The MB’s will add up fast!
  3. Explore qualitative measures that compliment your quantitative analysis. This is where you will discover what is driving the numbers.

Just like a term paper, getting started is the key to finishing, and a great way to begin is to look for examples of what you are trying to accomplish. Do a little web searching and you will quickly discover no shortage of problems and people trying to solve them.

Here are a couple of ideas to get your good started:

The building blocks of a sustainable community

Correlating the quality of an area’s infrastructure to the economic well-being of the area would help organizations better understand what is needed to support long-term economic sustainability. From roads to access to fresh water to accessible markets for goods, there are many factors to consider. Look beyond just numbers to explore the quality of each major infrastructure element.

The economic impact of caregiving

Study demographic and economic data about a metropolitan area or region to determine the current and future impact of caregiving. Along with household data, data about geriatric care facilities, access to geriatric medical help and support organizations could also be used. Social media could be mined to look at the number of people talking about specific caregiving challenges over time, perhaps incorporating specific conditions, such as Alzheimer's, into the project.

We look forward to seeing what you come up with, and, more importantly, the good that will come from it.


We’re here to help. If you have any questions about the challenge, post on the discussion forum or email and we’ll respond as soon as we can.