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Taking on Chicago's Social Problems with Analytics



University of Chicago
The University of Chicago's Data Science for Social Good Fellowship Program is partnering with multiple Chicago governments to innovatively take on real-world problems.

July 24, 2013 By

This story was originally published by Data-Smart City Solutions.

This summer, thirty-six young data scientists have descended upon Chicago to partake in a first-of-its kind program that leverages data science as a mechanism to solve social problems. 

The Data Science for Social Good Fellowship (DSSG), a University of Chicago program sponsored by Google chairman and wife Eric and Wendy Schmidt, is partnering with multiple Chicago governments and NPOs to innovatively take on real-world problems these organizations face. DSSG aims to not only make a positive social impact on Chicago going forward, to but to help create a culture of social conscientiousness among data scientists.  

Developing the Program

DSSG would not be possible without Rayid Ghani, former chief data scientist of the Obama 2012 campaign, who recently joined the University of Chicago in April.  A month prior, he and Schmidt, who worked together on the Obama campaign, developed the idea for the program.  Soon, Ghani was at the helm as program director, with support from U of C’s Computation Institute and Harris School of Public Policy. Together with key staff members Juan-Pablo Velez and Matt Gee, DSSG was ready to accept applications for its inaugural launch in June.  

While Ghani’s team had hoped for a strong turnout, the response far exceeded expectations.  550 graduate and undergraduate students from six continents applied, giving Ghani, Velez and Gee the difficult but welcome challenge of choosing which applicants would be the best fit for DSSG. 


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