DataEDGE: A New Vision for Data Science

Steven Weber is a professor in the School of Information and Political Science department at UC Berkeley.

It’s commonly said that most people overestimate the impact of technology in the short term, and underestimate its impact over the longer term.

Where is Big Data in 2013? Starting to get very real, in our view, and right on the cusp of underestimation in the long term. The short term hype cycle is (thankfully) burning itself out, and the profound changes that data science can and will bring to human life are just now coming into focus. It may be that Data Science is right now about where the Internet itself was in 1993 or so. That’s roughly when it became clear that the World Wide Web was a wind that would blow across just about every sector of the modern economy while transforming foundational things we thought were locked in about human relationships, politics, and social change. It’s becoming a reasonable bet that Data Science is set to do the same—again, and perhaps even more profoundly—over the next decade. Just possibly, more quickly than that.

There are important differences which have equally come into focus. Let’s face it: Data Science is just plain hard to do, in a way that the Web was not. Data is technically harder, from a hardware and a software perspective. It’s intellectually harder, because the expertise and disciplines needed to work with this kind of data span (at a minimum) computer science, statistics, mathematics, and—controversially—domain expertise in the area of application. And it will be harder to manage issues of ethics, privacy, and access, precisely because the data revolution is, well, really a revolution.

Can data, no matter how big, change the world for the better? It may be the case that in some fields of human endeavor and behavior, the scientific analysis of big data by itself will create such powerful insights that change will simply have to happen, that businesses will deftly re-organize, that health care will remake itself for efficiency and better outcomes, that people will adopt new behaviors that make them happier, healthier, more prosperous and peaceful. Maybe. But almost everything we know about technology and society across human history argues that it won’t be so straightforward.

Data Science is becoming mature enough to grapple confidently and creatively with humans, with organizations, with the power of archaic conventions that societies are stuck following. The field is broadening to a place where data science is becoming as much a social scientific endeavor as a technical one. The next generation of world class data scientists will need the technical skills to work with huge amounts of data, the analytical skills to understand how it is embedded in business and society, and the design and storytelling skills to pull these insights together and use them to motivate change.

What skills, knowledge, and experience do you and your organization need to thrive in a data-intensive economy? Come join senior industry and academic leaders at DataEDGE at UC Berkeley on May 30-31 to engage in what will be a lively and important conversation aimed at answering today’s questions about the data science revolution—and formulating tomorrow’s.


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Imagining Better Cities through Apps

Adrienne St. Aubin is a Policy Analyst at Google

Google is excited to sponsor this year’s international AppMyCity! Prize from the New Cities Foundation, celebrating mobile applications that improve the urban experience, connect people, and make cities more fun, vibrant, sustainable places.

We’re bullish on the value of open public data to inspire innovation and improve citizens’ daily lives. Last year Francisca Rojas of Harvard Kennedy School’s Transparency Policy Project highlighted the positive impact of open transit data on the number of transit apps developed—and the indication that more people are likely to utilize public transportation systems when apps help improve the experience via real-time information. Imagine the possibilities for other kinds of public data like health, employment, education, environmental, demographic and cultural info.

The first step toward generating value from public data is for governments to make data available in machine-readable formats, not just PDFs or image files, and ensure it stays up to date. No one wants to build or use an app that shows out-of-date schedules or last year’s parking zones. But governments aren’t the only ones who have a responsibility here, even though they are the generators and keepers of the data. Developers and citizens have a role to play too, by using what’s out there, giving feedback about how it can be improved, and growing the demand side of the market.

Of course, the value of open data isn’t just about apps. But creating and using apps is one of the most concrete ways we can engage with the public information around us. Imagine together how it can make our communities—and the world—a better place.

About the AppMyCity! Prize

Entries are now being accepted at www.appmycity.org and the submission deadline is April 26, 2013. The New Cities Foundation will announce ten semi-finalists on April 30, 2013. This list will be assessed by a panel of expert judges, who will select the three finalists. The finalists will be announced on May 7, 2013.

Three AppMyCity! Prize finalists will be invited to attend the New Cities Foundation’s New Cities Summit in São Paulo June 4-6 to present their project to an international audience of urban leaders, thinkers and innovators, and the winner will receive 5,000 USD to support further development of the app.


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Google Policy Fellowship applications due March 15, 2013

Kate Sheerin is a Policy Analyst at Google

This Friday is the last day to apply for the 2013 Google Policy Fellowship—all applications must be submitted by March 15, 2013 at midnight PST. Please visit the website for application and program details.

The Google Policy Fellowship supports students and organizations working on the critical technology policy issues of our time. Fellows will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on broadband and access policy, content regulation, copyright and trademark reform, consumer privacy, open government, and more. The Google Policy Fellowship is open to students of all levels and disciplines.

Good luck on your application!


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Apply for a 2013 Google Policy Fellowship

Nicklas Lundblad is Director of Public Policy at Google.

The Internet policy world is ripe with fascinating issues. From cybercrime to government surveillance and security, to public procurement, trade and open access to information, there has never been a more exciting time to get involved. We’re excited to launch the 6th summer of the Google Policy Fellowship, with new opportunities to work with organizations from Africa, Europe and Latin America in addition to ones in U.S. and Canada. Applications are open today, and students of all levels and disciplines are welcome to apply before March 15, 2013.

Fellows will spend ten weeks this summer working on a broad portfolio of topics at a diverse set of organizations, including:

Africa

Europe

Latin America

North America

You can learn about the program, application process and host organizations on the Google Public Policy Fellowship website.
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