Rather MSF than Rotary [SAS FORUM]

How are Belgian data scientists putting their skills and expertise to good use? And how this compares to what an organization like MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) is doing?

By Philippe Van Impe, founder of the European Data Innovation Hub and founding partner of the Brussels Data Science Community. Philippe Van Impe is the host of the Data Science track at the SAS Forum Belux on 15 October 2015

This blog is part of a tailor-made content series around the SAS Forum Belux 2015. It is linked with the event track called “Data Science”. Click here to join the event and learn more about the other 3 tracks (Internet of Things, Digital Society and Data Management).

Just the other day I was browsing through an invitation from a service club. They were organizing a ‘pop-up restaurant’, with club members working hard to cook or serve meals or do the dishes. Most of the club members, in their daily lives, are top managers with outstanding technical, social and/or managerial skills. Yet they proudly participate in events where the only skills they need are washing up, tapping beer or peeling potatoes. Does anyone else think that this is a waste of valuable talent? Their hearts are in the right place, but are these managers in the right place to do charity? Shouldn’t they put their skills to a better use for a worthy cause?

On the other side of the charity spectrum is for example an organization like MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières, or in Dutch: Artsen Zonder Grenzen (AZG)), an association of doctors who put their specific skills and expertise to good use for a worthy cause: helping out the ill and the injured who would otherwise be ignored or left to die. Mind you: I do not consider this cause superior to any of the charity projects that Rotary’s or Lion’s Club support. But I do feel that MSF is making a better use of the available talent than the many fundraising events of service clubs.

Our Brussels Data Science Community could be called a ‘service club’ as well: we strive to provide services to others and to support worthy causes. But we don’t want to engage the right people in the wrong initiatives, so we can probably best be compared to that ‘other service club’: MSF. Allow me to elaborate on some examples.

  • We recently organized a hackathon to assist a humanitarian organization in getting more value out of their data and doing a better job at communicating with the right donors.
  • We organized coached MOOCs sessions in order to raise the success rate of its participants of finalizing an analytics related on-line course from 3 to 54%.
  • We organized the Data Innovation Summit in March that allowed more than 500 people from all areas of business to understand the value of data and how important it is to put innovation at the heart of your data initiatives.
  • We have opened a training center in Brussels where people can learn and share data related techniques.
  • We organize free monthly meetups at the VUB tackling datascience-related issues. You are welcome to join us on our next meetup that will focus on How datasciences are transforming the Sales and Marketing world. 

We are proud that we can put our skills and expertise to good use on so many levels. And we are proud that these initiatives are acknowledged and supported by our government. In that respect, I am glad to announce that the official opening of the European Data Innovation Hub on Tuesday October 20th will be attended by Federal Minister of (among others) Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo. The Brussels based European Data Innovation Hub is the premier networking space where business, startup, academic and political decision makers meet and discuss policy and best practices about big data, open data and data innovation. If you want to find out more about our Innovation Hub and its official opening ceremony, feel free to check it out here.

About the Brussels Data Science Community:

Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower scholars and professionals to apply data sciences to address humanity’s grand challenges. We promote the value of analytics and organise events, hands-on sessions, coached MOOCS and trainings to close the gap between academics and business.

We benefit from the support from the European Data Innovation Hub using their offices space, training rooms and meeting rooms.

About the European Data Innovation Hub:

The European Data Innovation Hub is a non for profit actor in the data innovation ecosystem and supports data professionals throughout Europe online and offline with networking activities, events, training and meeting facilities, e-learning platforms, co-working space and mentorship. We foster grassroots community initiatives and take the burden out of realising and organising them. We set conditions where people and organisations in the right positions can have options on the way forward.

Join SAS Forum Belux on October 15 next in Antwerp to gather other valuable insights about the digital society, the Internet of Things, data science and data management: www.sasforum.be