Category : Data For Good

Last night we hosted a Data for Good (@Data_for_Good) event entitled “Top Tips for Data Quality Assurance”, a great talk that brought together all kinds of people in the datasphere to listen to some data experts talk about…well, data!

We began the night’s events with Niti Kic (@peaceforlives) discussing the all important issue: Cleaning Dirty Data. Dealing with various formats and merging datasets can be rather complicated (especially with near identical records), but luckily she takes us through various methods on how to get around them.

The evening carried on with Kry Lui who spoke to us on the all important issue of filling in missing data in datasets, definitely not a favourite of our data scientists. He starts off by explaining patterns that missing values can create, and insisting that those patterns themselves can be utilized to help fill in the gaps. By looking at various data points, you can infer missing data using K-means, K-Nearest Neighbour and other more advanced methods, while also considering the weight and distance of the surrounding points.


Our evening continued with Adam Jacobs from MaRS Discovery District, who gave us a non-profit’s perspective on data – specifically, survey data and how difficult it can be to weigh responses based on extreme variables in the data returned. For example, some industries vary in their response rate which can make it difficult to get a true picture across the board. The problem in the end? Not enough data. With such little data, we’re left with a limited descriptive base and when dealing with surveys, that can be a real problem.


Last, but certainly not least, Samara (Canada) (@SamaraCDA), a Not-For-Profit, stepped forth to describe their plan for using data to increase political participation in Canada. They’ll be working with Data for Good in hopes of cleaning up and deriving meaningful data out of their datasets regarding Contribution Data in Canada, which until now, has been largely unstudied. They plan to attack survey data at all levels to create a comprehensive donation map of financial contributions made to political parties. We wish luck to both them and the Data for Good volunteers!

As usual, after the talks we launched into Q&A and had a lively evening of networking and data discussion. See our live recaps at @viafoura on Twitter and at @Data_for_Good.

With Big Data Week 2014 drawing to an end, we felt there was no better way to send it off than to host a datathon with our partners, Data for Good. The objective was to bring together data scientists, statisticians, programmers and others in the data community to analyze and use data provided by UNICEF in order to produce innovate visualizations and tools to better the lives of future generations.

Lisa Wolff, Director of Policy and Education for UNICEF Canada, spoke to us about their work and their data initiatives, inspiring the crowd and seeding ideas. After revealing some exciting new plans for data collection from the world’s most at-risk populations and how child indicators have been used to stabilize child survival rates, Lisa finished by thanking the Toronto data community for donating their time to such a worthy cause.

Our teams worked tirelessly over the day, stopping only for meals and the odd game of foosball. They covered the whiteboards with notes and the air was thick with chatter and planning.


The teams drew a lot of conclusions, some surprising, some affirming and came up with a lot of fantastic visualizations and interactive tools to educate and inform. At the end of the night, they presented their findings, and propelled rich discussions among the room.




Thanks to our friends at OneEleven, we had plenty of space to host all 100 participants, while Alchemy API donated 100 API keys for use during the datathon. We were thrilled with the turnout and by the potential of the projects and can’t wait for the next one! It was our great honour to be involved with this event, and to be able to witness the innovation, creativity and intelligence of our participants from the Toronto data community. Good company, good food and good causes makes for an amazing weekend and the perfect send off to another fantastic Big Data Week in Toronto. Be sure to read our Tech Talk recap as well!

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