Data Analytics Can Help You Do Good in the World


In this time of complex problems and deepening crises, you may be asking yourself, “How can I help?” You’re not alone.

The truth is, we can all use our strengths to make a difference, and data is one of the reasons why. Insights captured from data are allowing us to solve problems we were never able to solve before. Across public interest fields—from health care and cybersecurity, to energy and the environment, to public policy and smart cities—advances in data science and technology have been a game changer, allowing leaders and public officials to collect and analyze large-scale datasets to inform better policies and programs. Data-driven solutions have the advantage of being based on evidence rather than individuals’ gut feelings, which may be biased or full of blind spots.

Public agencies have access to large datasets that, when combined with technology, can deliver powerful benefits in areas like public health, disaster readiness, counterterrorism, and safety inspections, to name a few. Private companies and nonprofits have ramped up their use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning as well—if deployed in a human-centered way, these tools can help organizations improve products and services and reach more people.

There’s an enormous opportunity for governments, nonprofits and NGOs, private companies, universities, activists, and volunteers to combine their talents and leverage their distinct advantages for the greater good—initiatives like Code for America, MetroLab Network, and New America’s Public Interest Technology University Network are working to facilitate these types of diverse collaborations to tackle multi-layered, society-scale problems. At the same time, service-minded individuals can check out platforms like Solve for Good, which provide visibility for organizations with data-intensive needs and give volunteers with data skills the opportunity to identify problems they can help to solve. Amidst these kinds of national efforts, data experts entering the workforce are in high demand and have many options for making an impact; regardless of the specific career trajectory they choose, data scientists and experts in analytics and AI should enter professional life looking for intentional and proactive ways to use data for social good.

Professional degree programs, like those we offer at Carnegie Mellon University’sHeinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, can best serve future leaders by providing a blend of data analytics, technology, policy, and management skills refined through hands-on experiential learning. At CMU, our culture of interdisciplinary inquiry breaks down departmental barriers so experts can match complex problems—such as how to predict fires, identify optimal sites for solar farms, or protect polling places—to the best analytics tools, techniques, and strategies that will help to solve them. Scholarship opportunities such as CMU’s Data Science for Social Good Fellowship further expose aspiring data scientists and computer scientists to social problems where their tech skills can make a positive difference.

“What we’re seeing now is that public policy and technology, these areas which may have been siloed in the past, they are colliding in ways that deserve our attention,” said Rayid Ghani, CMU Professor and Data Science for Social Good expert. “CMU is ideally positioned to train leaders who can use technology to inform public policy, and vice versa. We need to share knowledge across disciplines and collaborate in unprecedented ways to move society forward.”

Think about what motivates you. Is it responsive government? Smarter cities and connected communities? Inclusive economic development? A safer internet? A fairer criminal justice system? More accessible health care? Services that improve quality of life? If you’re someone who acknowledges the complexity and implications of technological change in the 21st century, and are driven by a desire to help government work better for all people, then a career in public interest technology or public policy analytics might be the right path for you. And there are programs out there that can match your passion with the skills you need to turn raw data and emerging technology into policy action that changes the world.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College degree programs will prepare you for a life of intelligent action. To learn more, check out our master’s degrees in Public Policy and Management, Public Policy Analytics, Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, or visit our Program Finder to find the right match for you!

About Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy

The Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy is home to two internationally recognized graduate-level institutions at Carnegie Mellon University: the School of Information Systems and Management and the School of Public Policy and Management. This unique colocation combined with its expertise in analytics set Heinz College apart in the areas of cybersecurity, health care, the future of work, smart cities, and arts & entertainment. In 2016, INFORMS named Heinz College the #1 academic program for Analytics Education. For more information, please visit

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