Data and artificial intelligence (AI) can be a high-impact tool for the public good with the potential to counter rising inequality, climate change, threats to democracy and public health, and others World challenges.
Harnessing these tools to their full potential will require investing in a diverse global workforce of skilled data practitioners, while overcoming funding challenges and the digital divide between rich and developing countries, where a third of the world’s population still does not have access to the Internet.
These are some of the findings of a 68-page white paper on Harnessing Data for Social Impact (DSI), released Wednesday by data.org at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“Accelerating Aspirations: Acting Together to Achieve Systems Change” was compiled from a July 2022 survey and stakeholder interviews with representatives of 775 public, private, and nonprofit organizations operating in the social impact sector.
The report builds on findings from last year’s data.org report, “In-demand workforce: data talent for social impact”, which has identified 3.5 million data-related job opportunities in developing countries.
Researchers involved in this latest report found that despite the persistent digital divide and gap in global internet connectivity, the increased use of web-enabled mobile phones and smartphones in low-income and intermediate leads to the use of more data and artificial intelligence. interventions and solutions worldwide.
The report authors also documented how DSI continues to transform and deliver new ways to analyze giant datasets, advance predictive models, and harness machine learning to benefit society and of the environment.
Researchers found that 90% of respondents to the July 2022 survey are committed to supporting continued investment in new data tools, training and staff, but lack the infrastructure, capacity and resources to maintain such a long-term commitment.
“Resources are scarce for a field that requires expensive tools and skills to thrive,” the authors wrote. “These persistent challenges translate into work being done at the business and project level, but do not create a cohesive set of building blocks to form a strong and healthy domain capable of solving a new class of problems at the systems level.”
To meet this challenge, data.org is implementing a plan to create knowledge hubs that will be used to train 1 million data practitioners globally over the next 10 years.
“We have the power to build – and fund – a data-driven social impact sector that provides affordable and innovative ways to address the multitude of challenges we face,” said Danil Mikhailov, executive director of data. org. “But to do that, we have to be thoughtful, open and bold. As this emerging sector grows, we also need to ensure that it is better coordinated and grounded in the principles of diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility (IDEA).
Stronger funding models with longer time horizons, more flexible funding and better coordination will support this commitment, the authors wrote. “A more diverse global workforce with interdisciplinary perspectives can provide a foundation for effective and fair social impact work,” Mikhailov said.
The data.org organization is a joint initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth dedicated to increasing the use of data science to address societal and global challenges.
The full report and executive summary are available at www.data.org/reports/accelerate.
The organization is also hosting a webinar on January 24 on the report’s findings that is open to the public. Details can be found at www.data.org/events.