In 2013, President Obama launched the new Open Data Policy and Executive Order aimed at ensuring data released by the government will be as accessible and as useful as possible. Since this proclamation, many initiatives have been launched to expand, codify, and systemize use cases for open data. In that same year, Vida Williams embarked on a mission to apply data acumen to projects that yield immediate outcomes to social good, with the goal that innovation not leave humanity behind. Committed to this cause, Vida and her team have worked on projects such as matrices determining risk points to communities educating for high-skilled workers over time and the transmutation of qualitative indicators to quantitative indicators of risk and success in foster care—a project that taught a number of lessons about capturing, assembling, and sharing datasets.
Working with nonprofit and social welfare institutions requires the use of open source platforms and methodologies for success—there is limited, if any, budget to spend on technological infrastructure. To think of it another way, every dollar spent on technological infrastructure is a dollar not spent on helping a person make it through a challenging moment. Thankfully, the open source community is vibrant.
Vida Williams offers an overview of the child welfare project to illustrate the methodology of open data she outlined during the 2016 OSCON conference. This data was first presented at the 2016 White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon. It has since been augmented with additional sources, including data from the Open Data Project, and refined for various project use cases. Along the way, Vida explains how she and her team identified missing data points using their own data storyboard toolsets and walks you through how they put together formal data gathering, analysis, and reporting using Microsoft’s Azure environment. Vida concludes by outlining the benefits of data sharing using the Data.World platform.
Vida Williams is managing partner at a new firm based in Richmond, Virginia, that is helping companies big and small demystify big data by contextualizing their data to tell the story of their company and write its more effective and profitable future, as well as an adjunct instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s DaVinci Center for Innovation. She works with youth in her community through her program Hacktastic and a robotics and engineering club she founded. Vida embarked on a career in data over 15 years ago on a project to transform voluminous EPA data from a mainframe to a relational system. Vida entered the project as a technical writer but quickly became smitten with the techniques of articulating data into a structure for deeper and more probing storytelling. Her love affair with data continued more passionately over the years. She has remained faithful that data, when fully and completely contextualized, can tell an enterprise everything there is to know about itself—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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