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Video: Drew Conway and Jake Porway on Data Without Borders

By Justin Stoltzfus
Published: May 9, 2013
In a 2011 presentation at Strata New York, Jake Porway and Drew Conway talked about the role of Data Without Borders (now known as DataKind), a project that brings together leading data scientists with social organizations and aims to create a collaborative approach to addressing some of humanity's biggest problems.

Porway started out by noting the vast amounts of data available today, and applauding those who, he said, work on data sets, not just nine-to-five, but around the clock, looking at data in their spare time and sharing an immense enthusiasm for what close analysis can do. As evidence, Porway mentioned the phenomenon of hackathons, where interested analysts get together for all-night sessions to solve problems or develop proposals that could effect change in areas like health care, education or poverty.

Taking a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the barrage of music, food and comfort apps developed for mobile platforms, Porway called a lot of existing data use "unfulfilling" and "bourgeois." He also highlighted the relative lack of attention some important data sets receive, even though they could provide valuable information to help solve some of the world's biggest problems. The problem is, many NGOs lack the resources to dig into that data.

Citing an "open data movement" where governments and agencies are releasing more of their internal data, Porway specified that the aim of Data Without Borders is to bring together the data and the people who can best use it to benefit their communities.

Drew Conway of NYU clarified a few points on particular goals for Data Without Borders, including training NGOs in the art of data exploration. Conway also outlined the group’s idea to kick off a tour of "data dive" events meant to bring professionals and others together. These events, said Conway, should be truly collaborative, where individuals from different walks of life sit together and share knowledge while tackling data sets, and where teams look for "quick fixes" that can deliver value.

The ideas raised here can be inspirational to those with a passion for using technology in ways that make a real impact in the world. As an effective portrayal of an individual’s role in creative philanthropy, this video can be an asset to anyone who has some time to get involved in this kind of technical collaboration.


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Written by Justin Stoltzfus | Contributor, Reviewer

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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.

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