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Tuesday, 04 April 2017 11:41

SAS harnesses crowd power to solve global humanitarian challenges

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With limited resources, humanitarian and non-profit organisations that house massive stores of data often lack the capacity to analyse and apply it to solve global crises. SAS’s GatherIQ is an answer.

The crowdsourcing project from SAS puts analytics in the public’s hands to address world problems. The first GatherIQ project is with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). SAS and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) are asking the public to help analyse data to better understand the dangers faced by migrants.

The announcement was made at SAS Global Forum, the world's largest analytics conference, with more than 30,000 business and IT users of SAS software participating on-site and online.

Each year, thousands of migrants go missing or die while on their way to try and make new lives for themselves and their families. IOM estimates there have been more than 63,000 victims from 2000 to 2016. The GatherIQ mobile app poses critical questions about the migrant crisis that IOM needs help analysing. GatherIQ surfaces extensive data from IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, including demographics, migrant routes, and locations.

SAS Institute GatherIQ Logo

IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle said, “The migrant crisis continues unabated. By better understanding the risks facing these people, we can do more to protect them. The more people we have analysing the data and contributing to solutions, the more likely we are to save lives. Interested users can download the SAS GatherIQ from Apple’s App Store. It will also be available on Android and as a web app soon.”

Participants in the GatherIQ community will gain access to SAS Visual Analytics interactive reports via the mobile app, where they can explore relevant visualisations. They can post insights to the community that they believe address the questions, share observations and work together to validate each other's results.

The mobile app also makes it easy to share insights across social media – not only to bring attention to the crisis but to attract others to the GatherIQ effort. IOM will harness the power of the crowd to better understand what is really happening to these migrants and how the organisation can help them.

Through GatherIQ, SAS will collaborate with select non-profit organisations to help them learn more from their data. Each project will encourage individuals to contribute their time, knowledge and analytic skills to help solve humanitarian, educational and environmental issues facing the global community.

I-Sah Hsieh, SAS global manager for International Development, said, “To everyone who wants to help solve complex global challenges, but doesn’t know where to start: GatherIQ is your chance. We want the public to help us in our mission to improve the world with analytics and data. You don’t have to be a data scientist. Just have a curious mind and a desire to help humanity.”

While they’re helping to improve understanding of humanitarian crises, community members are also learning how to explore data using the latest data visualisation tools.

“We encourage teachers, professors, and students to integrate this project into their learning and research. Today’s students want to make a difference in the world. With GatherIQ, they also gain data analysis experience that will help fill the looming data skills gap,” said Hsieh.

The humanitarian collaboration between SAS and IOM has already helped modernise disaster response. Following Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of the Philippines in 2013, SAS analysed data from IOM shelters to target relief efforts and identify the most critical health problems. For instance, IOM could see on a map which shelters had a dangerous combination of overcrowding, bad drinking water, and problems with solid waste disposal. IOM could also quickly pinpoint sites that had a high number of families living in makeshift shelters. Both results enabled IOM to direct services and resources where needs were greatest.

In 2015, SAS again worked with IOM to address life-threatening needs in the wake of the Nepal earthquake. With the monsoon season approaching, SAS analysed 300 million rows of global trade data to quickly identify sources for tin roofing. IOM immediately ordered 310,000 sheets and provided shelter to 45,000 displaced Nepalese families.

“SAS and IOM have proven the value of analytics and data visualisation to help bring hope to the hopeless. The public’s involvement will increase that value exponentially,” said Doyle.

The writer is attending the SAS Global Forum 2017in Orlando, Florida, as a guest of the company. 

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!