Using Data Science for social good

Merve Alanyali, Lead Data Scientist at LV= GI

Every day, a vast amount of data is being generated across every industry, including the public sector. Analysing this raw data to extract meaningful information is of the utmost importance, because it equips decision makers with the most recent intelligence. In most cases, however, the sheer volume of data makes it almost impossible to extract meaningful information manually which is why we need specialist professionals, aka Data Scientists.  

Within the LV= GI Data Science team, we believe one of our responsibilities is to improve data literacy across the business. We’re also strongly of the view though that it’s just as important to use our skills to help the wider public, for example by taking part in initiatives to help non-profit organisations integrate data science into their processes. 

That’s why we were very fascinated to hear about the Data Science for Social Good (DSSGx) initiative led by The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. With the aim of making the UK “the best place in the world for data science and AI research”, the Institute ignites and supports research to address the biggest challenges that science, society and the economy are facing. The Turing collaborates with universities as well as businesses, public organisations and the third sector to apply this research to solve “real-world problems”. In order to achieve this the Institute offers funding, fellowships, PhD Enrichment placements and opportunities for researchers to develop their skills using real-world data such as Data Study Groups (DSG) and Data Science for Social Good (DSSGx).

DSSGx is the UK part of the wider DSSG summer fellowship programme, the main aim of which is to support non-profit organisations and government bodies through summer internships to make better use of the data they have access to in order to improve their services. The DSSGx programme brings participants from all around the world to the University of Warwick campus - which this year was held virtually due to Covid-19 - and over a period of 12-weeks two groups worked on two projects put forward by Ofsted and the World Bank

The aim of the group working on the Ofsted project was to analyse a combination of publicly available data as well as the data gathered by Ofsted in order to estimate how likely it was that an early-years provider - such as a nursery or child-minder - would receive a substandard care rating in the next inspection. The aim of which was to equip Ofsted officials with a new set of information in addition to the inspection results which could support them with certain decisions, such as how to prioritise inspections and also provide further insight into why nurseries could be providing sub-standard care.

The second project with the World Bank was very different. The World Bank is a financial institution which aims to build accountable institutions in order to fight corruption worldwide and the main focus of the DSSGx team working on this project was therefore to analyse and identify corruption in public administration in a data driven manner. The results provided by the team were very beneficial, because in addition to giving them valuable insight to enable them to do further research into corruption, it also provided evidence on the importance of avoiding corruption by strengthening policies to make public procurement more efficient and transparent.

We were incredibly proud to become one of the main programme sponsors for DSSGx and we formed a team to support the initiative, comprising senior level data scientists and data engineers. In addition to attending their general progress update sessions, we had weekly one-to-one sessions with the teams where we discussed ideas, gave feedback on their approaches as well as provided insights into how data science works in a commercial setting. It was a privilege to work with a number of the other participants who kindly remarked that they really appreciated our approach to co-working with them and the enthusiasm we brought to the projects, as well as the time we gave. We also took a lot away from the experience, learning new tools and discovering new ways of thinking, and I strongly believe the whole event was a major success. 

At LV= GI, we always put our people and customers first, which is one of the many reasons why I’m proud to work for the company. That’s why working on this project gave me even more satisfaction, as the Data Science team were able to help more people and have a positive impact on the wider society by making use of our knowledge and skills. 

That’s why it’s very crucial to support and participate in programmes like DSSGx. As the Turing states: “Data science will change the world”, and I strongly believe that. It was a real privilege for us at LV= GI to work with so many great data scientist’s researchers, and with more initiatives and collaborations between commercial organisations and institutes, I believe data science will change the world for better.

To find out more about the project and the findings for Ofsted and the World Bank, watch this video via the Turing’s YouTube channel.

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