According to the statistics shared by IBM, the Science for Social Good program, which the company initiated, is indeed having an impact. Since the program's launch, over 100 IBM researchers from its various labs have contributed their time to over 28 data science projects. The program has also benefited non-governmental organizations and has led to scientific papers, some of which have been patented. This aside, big data initiatives are being used to find humanitarian hotspots, thus helping solve social and environmental problems. With the large and sheer number of people affected by hardship and in distress in rural areas, offering support without the right framework or method in place can be complicated. However, social media data can be used to map the humanitarian activity in particular locations. With the insights provided by analysis of big data, local aid organizations can efficiently channel their efforts to the people that are in acute need.
Home fire safety is another area that is immensely getting a boost from big data. House fires are one of the greatest threats to lives and property. Although fire alarms and smoke detectors can save lives, big data can make our homes even safer. With reliable data, fire alarms can mitigate risk. Enigma Labs, for example, has developed open data tools that model and map risks in neighborhoods by combining national census data and using a geocoder tool and analytics on local data incidences, and providing the risk score. This score allows potential fire hotspots to be closely monitored and action taken as soon as possible.
Managing the rising cases of violence can be complex and often impossible. However, with the advancement in data collection tools and platforms that generate big data, such as social media, the social media posts from ordinary citizens can be used to map violence. Open mapping projects can be used to visualize violence and respond to the potential violence hotspots accordingly. The systems can take advantage of crowdsourced databases, criminal records databases, police reports, and social media. By analyzing data from these sources, the scale of violence can be quantified and visualized.
As shown by the report shared by IBM, turning data science into social good is a promising but complex undertaking. The process begins with the identification of the social impacts of data analytics. However, accessing data or linking it with the sources is a major problem mainly because privacy is a major concern. Despite the challenges such as distrust and biases, when put to work for social good, it can offer critical insights for governments, NGOs, and funding bodies that would want to help specific communities or individuals. This can help establish a more caring and better-connected society that accommodates all.
Big data has become instrumental in the medical field as well. For instance, IBM scientists are developing a system that will help drug researchers search for a cure for different types of cancer. According to IBM, the system will use natural language processes (NLP) to analyze massive literature and find patented drugs that can be best placed to treat and cure cancer.