Gideon Mann on data science: 'We can improve the lives of millions'
With the 2015 Open Data Awards just around the corner, we catch up with one of the judges, Bloomberg Head of Data Science Gideon Mann, on how, with the right coordination between different sectors, open data can help build fairer communities and solve social problems.
The Open Data Awards celebrate innovation and excellence in open data across the world. Hundreds of inspiring people and organisations have been nominated across five categories, from social impact to publishing.
Hi Gideon. As Head of Data Science at Bloomberg L.P., what do you do in a nutshell?
My role sits within the office of the Chief Technology Officer; it’s a terrific team who evaluate and incubate new technologies for the firm. I, specifically, lead the strategic direction for machine learning, natural language processing and search technologies for the Bloomberg core terminal.
What first got you excited about open data?
I got excited about open data after seeing all of the amazing work that came out of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) in New York, during Mike Bloomberg’s tenure in office. By being able to combine data from various city departments, house inspection data and water use records, MODA was able to pinpoint illegal overcrowding and save lives. I am deeply inspired by the ways MODA used open data to help build a more just and fair community.
When’s the last time you used open data?
This morning, I checked the weather on my phone – knowing that the app uses the open atmospheric data that NOAA has provided for decades.
What kind of open data would you like to see more of?
I’d like to see more open data made available to solve social problems, and a more organised effort around connecting data scientists with the nonprofit and NGO communities who are tackling the world’s biggest problems. Like many of my peers, I know that data science can solve societal problems at scale, and by applying modern methods of data science to problems in the public and nonprofit sectors, we can meaningfully improve the lives of millions.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m very focused on an initiative called the Data for Good Exchange. This conference builds on the success of the "KDD at Bloomberg" pre-conference in August last year. This created a forum to connect the academic and industry data science community with the nonprofit and public sector community. This year, Bloomberg is organising its efforts to once again connect these communities, but also take it a step further – partnering with Unicef to create a fellowship where a data scientist will be funded to embed inside Unicef at their global headquarters, steps away from the United Nations building in NYC. There, over a six-month to 12-year period, they will assist Unicef in applying emerging statistical machine learning, data science and natural language processing to the pressing problems in global child welfare.
What are you most looking forward to about the Open Data Awards?
I’m a big proponent of data science being applied to solve social problems and I’m looking forward to see the ways that many of the nominees are contributing in this space.
The Open Data Awards will be held on July 9 in partnership with Bloomberg at Bloomberg’s London offices on Finsbury Square.