A Data Revolution for All – The Rockefeller Foundation

A Data Revolution for All
Mike Froman Vice Chairman and President, Strategic Growth, Mastercard
Dr. Rajiv J. Shah President, The Rockefeller Foundation
January 28, 2020
It has now been almost two decades since the original launch of DATA.org, a non-profit that marshaled $100 billion in debt forgiveness for poor countries, and another $50 billion in contributions for health and development. In a world with more data and data-science expertise than ever, it’s time to revive that innovative spirit.

Science has revolutionized medicine and agriculture over the last 100 years, particularly for the poorest of the poor. Achievements ranging from the treatment of hookworm to the green revolution attest to its power.

Looking ahead, data science has even greater potential to revolutionize everything from how we treat disease to how we build more inclusive economies. History shows us that when the power of science and technology is brought to bear on society’s greatest challenges, millions of lives can be improved…

…Transforming the role of data in addressing major social and economic issues is not a job for any one person or organization. We must build on the successes of those who have come before. In 2002, a group of innovative social entrepreneurs, together with anti-poverty advocates and the Irish rock musician and philanthropist Bono, launched DATA.org, a nonprofit committed to alleviating debt, fighting AIDS, and reducing trade inequalities in Africa. In what ultimately became the ONE Campaign, they galvanized support for poverty alleviation by focusing on real-world data, and by advocating evidence-based approaches to development.

At the time, these efforts broke new ground by recognizing the power of data to address society’s greatest challenges. In partnership with millions of activists around the world, the coalition behind DATA.org facilitated the cancellation of $100 billion of debt owed by poor countries, marshaled $50 billion in contributions for health and development aid, and pushed for trade deals that helped millions of vulnerable families.

But, although data are ubiquitous, and the opportunities offered by the data revolution are even larger, not everyone is poised to gain from it equally. Once again, we need a bold effort to bridge the gap and ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind.

With that challenge in mind, and with the support of DATA.org’s original founders, The Rockefeller Foundation and Mastercard are relaunching DATA.org to serve as a platform for partnerships to expand further the field of data science for social impact, and to ensure that non-profit and civic organizations are well-positioned to take advantage of the data revolution.

By relaunching the platform, we hope to use data to tackle homelessness, improve access to social benefits, and support community health workers worldwide. Those on the front lines of efforts to improve public health, fight poverty, and solve many other problems will have improved access to data scientists who can help them maximize their impact. Most importantly, this will be done in a way that brings more people and organizations together to effect positive social change, all while adhering to principles of responsible data use.

Expanding the field of data science for social impact is a shared global effort. It will take collaboration from all sectors to ensure that the nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being produced every day have a positive social impact. Just as DATA demonstrated the promise of evidence-driven policies for development 18 years ago, the relaunch of the platform this month will create new momentum for tackling the world’s biggest challenges.

The data revolution must benefit all. Together, we can make 2020 the year that partnerships began to extend the promise of a data-driven economy to everyone, everywhere.