Voices of Pro Bono Data Science: Brian Dalessandro

October 23, 2014

For the second year in a row, DataKind is joining Taproot Foundation to celebrate Pro Bono Week 2014, a global celebration of the pro bono ethic across all professions that use their talents to make a difference. This is the last post in a four-part blog series highlighting voices of pro bono data science where we asked our volunteers and partner organizations to answer the question: "Why do you think pro bono data science can change the world?"

Tell us a bit about yourself

I currently work at Dstillery, an Ad Technology firm, where I manage a team of data scientists and build automated predictive modeling systems. In 2013, I gave a talk at DataGotham where I gave an overview on the NYC Parks Department Project I completed as a DataKind volunteer.

 

Why do you think pro bono data science can change the world?

Data and data science are changing the scale at which we can make decisions.  Machines can easily be automated to sort through and prioritize billions of data points. This power, when appropriately curated and applied in the right context, creates tremendous value and efficiency to those organizations lucky enough to be able to support it. It often takes massive resources to deploy the technology, build the software and develop the culture to make data science a regular part of an organization's operations. The consequence of this is that data science is a function whose benefits are mostly reaped by large technology, advertising and finance companies. 

The data scientist is ultimately going to follow the resources. This leaves resource-constrained organizations, which includes most of the non-profit and government sector, short on being able to access the skills of most data scientists. This allocation problem will likely not be solved by any market forces. Special programs need to be designed to that facilitate and enable corporate philanthropy in the form of labor donations in addition to donations of capital. A "pro bono" labor force of data scientists can offer the nonprofit sector the necessary training, staffing and cultural shifting that has already revolutionized the way technological based commerce is taking place. 

The corporate world has fully embraced the "Big Data" revolution and doesn't need to be convinced of its power. They are indeed the revolutionaries paving the way for others to follow. It should come as no surprise to them that, when applied to socially, nonprofit-oriented problems, data can and will make a difference. These large, for-profit companies are the stewards and originators of modern data science. Through the promotion and encouragement of "pro bono" data science, they have the power to promote a better, data-driven world.