How Big Data Could End World Hunger

What is data philanthropy and how could it revolutionize NGOs and the way we respond to humanitarian crises? 

Mallory Freeman – analytics expert at UPS – shares her experience with the World Food Programme in Rome, where she intended to solve world hunger through data optimization. She initially proposed using data to create the shortest, fastest, cheapest routes for food delivery but discovered the necessary data wasn’t available. Though initially unsuccessful, she remained involved in the humanitarian sector.

Over six years, she witnessed a transformative increase in data usage in the humanitarian world, specifically in decision-making processes. She shared an example where her team used a tool to sift through 900 million options for planning meals within a $6.5 million budget, which successfully reduced costs by 17% and fed an additional 80,000 people in Iraq.

Despite these strides, Mallory emphasized the need for companies to contribute to data philanthropy to solve world-scale problems. She proposed three ways in which companies could assist: by donating data, donating decision scientists, and donating technology. She explained that this would not only benefit the humanitarian sector but also companies themselves through uncovering valuable insights about potential customers, contributing to corporate social responsibility, and improving employee retention.

She concluded by asserting the potential of data philanthropy in revolutionizing humanitarian efforts and stressed the importance of long-term partnerships between companies and humanitarian organizations. She affirmed the potential for data to feed, clothe, and shelter hundreds of thousands more people, urging companies to participate in this data-driven revolution.

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