More than 10% of the world’s population or close to 800 million people live on less than $2 per day. Every 20 minutes a family has to flee their home because of war or persecution. Fifteen thousand children die every day, often from preventable causes such as diarrhea. In the U.S. alone, one in ten people don’t always have enough to eat, many of them are children. And hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their homes and livelihoods due to storms, floods and other disasters just in the last two years.
Many of these problems have been with us for decades. They are complex and not easily solvable because they are caused by factors that present a challenge in and of themselves. For example, children die of diarrhea because they are weak from hunger, don’t have access to clean water, toilets, or doctors to treat their condition.
Today I am thrilled and honored to step into my new role as the Executive Director of the Cloudera Foundation because I am convinced; it is in the field of data science where there are some of the biggest opportunities to make headway on these complex social challenges.
I believe that our ability to utilize ever larger quantities of data from diverse sources, e.g. satellite imagery, mobile phone data, twitter and census information, better and faster than ever before, is as game-changing in solving complex social problems as it is in the corporate world.
Applying data analytics and machine learning to social challenges allows us to:
- Understand problems better and therefore be better able to address what’s causing them
- Identify and target who is most at risk or most affected and so use our limited resources more effectively
- Have better evidence faster on what works and what doesn’t work leading to a more efficient delivery of services
- Detect patterns that weren’t visible using earlier methods to generate truly new insights and ways to solve problems
- Use data to create accountability and align disparate actors around a common goal.
Cloudera, the company, has a deep-rooted culture of volunteering and helping those in need. Countless employee organized Cloudera Cares activities and most recently have raised funds for diabetes research, the victims of hurricanes and earthquakes. The Cloudera Foundation will build on these efforts and take them to scale drawing on Cloudera’s technology, expertise and talent. We will work on projects where a new or different use of data addresses what’s causing these big social problems or where data can reduce the severity of a problem’s impact.
One example of such a project: the UNICEF humanitarian disaster management tool is still a pilot; nevertheless it illustrates how the application of big data could improve the organization’s early warning, response and recovery monitoring capabilities during an earthquake. A retrospective analysis of the Colombian earthquake in 2015 points to a number of applications. Real-time location information could have triggered more targeted and accurate safety alerts and help protect people from landslides or floods happening in the aftermath of an earthquake. Better access to data would have also allowed to coordinate the response more effectively and send rescue personnel where they were most needed.
The goal of the Cloudera Foundation is to help turn these early promising results into operational systems at scale that have real impact on the ground. However, we can’t do it alone. To achieve our ambitious goals the Cloudera Foundation seeks to partner with nonprofit organizations, governments, as well as companies to deliver solutions across sectors and geographies for large numbers of people.
The Cloudera Foundation is open for business. Share your ideas in the comments below on how you think the use of big data can change our world for the better.