Friday, May 18, 2018

Why I believe in the optimism of Data Science

It’s  the wee hours of the day and as I pass through the subway at Barakhamba , I often stand witness to a tragic unfolding event. This dimly lit subway is a routine passage for everyday commuters, hustling to meet their  fast receding deadlines. However not everyone seems to be in a hurry. There exists a family of four  here, who have made this passage their home ; the so called home of the under-privileged, with a single wall to rest besides and the temporary plastic sheets on which lays haphazard objects, epitomizing the  parched, abject poverty of the not so unfortunate ones.

The exit of the subway opens up a new door to a new world, not just literally but also metaphorically. In the night sky today, these posh clubs and the happening casinos here, outshine everything else-  a glaring contrast with the emptiness and nothingness of the futile world, I witnessed moments before, as I walked past the subway tunnel. Is mankind so insensitive and alienated to the miseries of fellow brethren,  to allow the existence of two sharply unequal worlds, a mere few meters apart? Can Data Science do nothing about it? Is Data Science only a technological construct to be relegated to the ivory towers of the corporate glitz? My answer would be in the negative.

Data Science is that beautiful science which could, and is already impacting billions of lives all over the world. What existed as meaningless dumps of hollow, useless data is being slowly transformed into rich, purposeful insights. It is these predictive insights that allow us make decision trees and action maps – slowly but surely a scientific procedure driven by data-driven action agenda , would transform for the better, several lives, not just those group of four that I regularly witness in my subway passages but their entire generations to come. It is this inter-generational shift , which behooves the future of Data Science.
Armed with visualizations and statistics ;  cluster maps ,R and Python languages ;  complemented with Big-Data and Social Media Analytics , Cloud , Mobile and Ubiquitous computing ; along with Internet of things , Robotics and Artificial Intelligence – we can surely create a better world.

Data driven policies would not only be more precise in meeting localized needs of poverty estimates but would also offer real-time , flexible, adaptable, customized solutions for various multi-dimensional purposes – be it faster, efficient surveys ; accurate and enriched computational models of data-analysis ; facilitation of those ‘aggregation benefits’ and nudge-units of Applied Behavioral / Functional interventions  ; thematic clusters maps and decision models ; qualitative and quantitative data plots throwing up scenarios , permutations and combinations that previously didn’t seem to exist  - and the list goes on.

Today, the world needs data-scientists to not just be passive observers, reacting to changing scenarios but actively engage proactively in solving problems here and now. If the data scientists of today, mobilize community participants as citizen-scientists, volunteers – billions of lives around the world could be lifted out of debilitating poverty ; interventions can be made more specific thereby ensuring every Rupee spent reaches the intended beneficiary; eliminating leakages of corruption and inefficiency; cities can be made more safer  and more resilient to both natural and artificial disasters ; food can be more nutritious and education more relevant to changing needs of the technocratic society; jobs can be matched to skills and the aspirations of billions of youth made to fructify.

The hope that Data Science in the above discussion brings is not exhaustive. There are countless possibilities that are ever increasing and awaiting for someone, somewhere to realize their potential. In my opinion, if there is any single technological solution that can dramatically alter the fortunes  for better, of that unprivileged, impoverished family of four dwelling in the subway passage , it is only Data Science ; for what petro-dollars can’t do , I believe Data Science can.  

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