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Data science helped Buckinghamshire Council identify pupils at risk of unemployment

Students have used data science to help Save the Children and UNICEF better allocate their scarce resources in their worldwide battle against child poverty. 

The Data Science for Social Good (DSSGxUK) programme led by Warwick Business School and hosted by the University of Warwick, saw 15 students from all over the world divided into teams to tackle problems societal problems.

Data Science for Social Good is the brainchild of Rayid Ghani, former Chief Scientist for President Obama, and continues to be run in the US at Carnegie Mellon University. Participants are trained over the summer, and work on data science projects with not-for-profit organisations and governmental bodies, helping them leverage their data to improve their services, interventions and outreach. WBS has worked under the DSSGx UK chapter of the DSSG Foundation since 2019.

After two years of running the programme online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year once again the participants were able to come together in person at the University of Warwick. They worked on four projects ranging from understanding child poverty to tackling climate change.

With the UK charity Save the Children and UNICEF, students built a model to predict the level of poverty in developing countries on a regional scale. This will help organisations and governments to allocate their resources to regions where they are most needed and have the greatest benefit.

For Buckinghamshire Council and the EY Foundation, the accounting giant's independent charity supporting young people from low-income backgrounds build fruitful careers, students developed a tool that identifies pupils at risk of ending up not in employment, education or training, a situation that is linked to a higher likelihood of unemployment, low wages, and lower quality of work later in life.

Based on the predictions made by the algorithm, Buckinghamshire Council will be able to provide additional support to those children at risk.

St Basils is a charity supporting young people in the West Midlands who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. DSSGx UK students helped them analyse their data and better understand the level of support needed by a young person looking for help.

Finally, a team of students worked with the West Midlands Combined Authority and Pure Leapfrog, a UK charity helping communities to become more sustainable, to predict the energy efficiency and solar panel potential of houses from various available data sources.

This will help local councils in their quest to lead the UK to net-zero carbon emissions by 2041, allowing them to identify and prioritise areas that would most benefit from retrofitting houses.

Professor Juergen Branke, Professor of Operational Research & Systems and DSSGx UK Programme Director, said: “Once again, this year’s DSSGx UK programme was a great success, and all of our partner organisations can benefit from what the teams have produced. Just mining the data can help them achieve more with less resources.

“There are many organisations working hard to do social good who are collecting vast amounts of data in this digital age, but don’t have the resources or skills to make the most of it. DSSG helps them unleash the potential of their data and the improvement in their services can be truly astounding.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of Microsoft who provided the necessary computational resources, and Aridhia for providing their secure digital research environment.

Oliver Fiala, Senior Research Advisor at Save the Children, added: “High-quality and granual data on child poverty is essential for governments, civil society organisations and many others to better understand and address violations of child rights.

“But in many cases, we don't know exactly where the poorest children live. The DSSG fellows have done extraordinary work to build a publicly accessible model which predicts child poverty on a very local level. We are now expanding this analysis to many more countries and are excited using this work in our advocacy and policy work going forward.”

DSSGx student Pranjusmrita Kalita, who is studying MSc Business Analytics at Warwick Business School and participating in this year’s DSSGx UK, said: “I had a great opportunity to work with non-profit organisations, helping them work through challenges using data science. DSSGx pushes you on to doing greater things, overcoming challenges, and definitely brings out the best in you.”

Daniela Pinto Veizaga, a DSSGx UK participant from Bolivia, added: “Being a fellow in DSSGx UK was a transformative experience. For 12 weeks, I immersed myself in a uniquely diverse environment with like-minded, problem-driven, skillful, ingenious, supportive, and passionate people about pressing social issues.”

And Li-Lian Ang, who joined DSSGx UK from Malaysia, said: “I could think of no better way to spend my summer than at this programme!”

Students who have a passion for data science, care about doing social good, and love to work in an international team of top talent, are encouraged to look out for next year’s application deadline at Warwick Data.

Charities or Government organisations who would like to benefit from and work with DSSGx UK may contact the programme by emailing