DataKind's Jake Porway on Data-Driven Solutions to Pressing Social Issues

January 4, 2013 Paul M. Davis

Image from UCLA Magazine.

2012 was an eventful year for data scientist Jake Porway and DataKind, the organization he cofounded that connects nonprofits with volunteer data practitioners to addressing pressing social issues. In addition to hosting far-flung DataDive events spanning from San Francisco to Chicago to London, and work with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Red Cross, and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, Porway was named as an Emerging Explorer by the National Geographic Society.

In a talk given at the 2012 National Geographic Explorers Symposium, Porway talks about how the ever-increasing tide of data is transforming society and social change, and the importance of devoting data practitioners’ skills to “solve real problems,” instead of merely “making first-world lives more comfortable.”

Porway expands on these ideas in a recent interview with UCLA Magazine, data science as a discipline, and why DataKind’s mission appeals to so many practioners in the field. “They’re data people, so they love cool problems,” he says. “What’s cooler than a real-world problem? And as big as their minds are, they have big hearts, as well. A lot of workplaces have volunteer programs. But it’s not the same to clean up trash from a river as it is to write an algorithm to help identify polluters. People are looking for ways to use their skills for good.”

To learn more about DataKind‘s work and mission, watch this talk Porway delivered last year at the Big Data for the Public Good seminar, hosted by Code for America and sponsored by Greenplum.

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