A few weeks ago at a Bloomberg Government event entitled, “Data Revolution: How AI and Machine Learning are Remaking Our World,” Robert Kirkpatrick, the Director of Global Pulse, a United Nations initiative to harness big data for public good, spoke on a panel about the use of data for social good. Below are a summary, highlights and a recording of his session.

As people go about their daily lives, they produce a phenomenal amount of real-time data. Data that, interestingly, changes as their needs change. When, for example, they lose their job. When they get sick. When they are affected by a disaster. When a policy does or does not work. By learning to recognize the signature patterns of these changes in human wellbeing, we have the potential to begin applying this information continuously for better policies and better responses to crisis. Data has in fact become an abundant natural resource.


  1. Skills needed to unlock value from data mining, particularly social value, is in the hands of the few
  2. Data can be quite harmful, especially in issues of privacy
  3. Data is produced by people, collected by machines and owned by corporations, giving us a fragmented landscape

What Do You Think?

While the potential to transform public policy is immense, the challenges in balancing data mining and utilization while respecting and protecting privacy are immense. How do you recommend we manage this complex balancing act? What is permissible? What is not permissible? And, most importantly, where do we draw the line?

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