First, they gave us targeted ads. Now, data scientists think they can change the world

in Gigaom: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads … That sucks.” – Jeff Hammerbacher, co-founder and chief scientist, Cloudera
Well, something has to pay the bills. Thankfully, there’s also a sweeping trend in the data science world right now around bringing those skills to bear on some really meaningful problems, …
We’ve already covered some of these efforts, including the SumAll Foundation’s work on modern-day slavery and future work on child pornography. Closely related is the effort — led by’s deep pockets — to create an international hotline network for reporting human trafficking and collecting data. Microsoft, in particular Microsoft Research’s danah boyd, has been active in helping fight child exploitation using technology.
This week, I came across two new efforts on different ends of the spectrum. One is ActivityInfo, which describes itself on its website as “an online humanitarian project monitoring tool” — developed by Unicef and a consulting firm called BeDataDriven — that “helps humanitarian organizations to collect, manage, map and analyze indicators….
The other effort I came across is DataKind, specifically its work helping the New York City Department of Parks and Recreations, or NYC Parks, quantify the benefits of a strategic tree-pruning program. Founded by renowned data scientists Drew Conway and Jake Porway (who’s also the host of the National Geographic channel’s The Numbers Game), DataKind exists for the sole purpose of helping non-profit organizations and small government agencies solve their most-pressing data problems.”