Return on Humanity and other metrics

I’ve been drafting project documents. It’s one of those jobs that has to be done, to give us a better work specification than “we want to build something to help analysts fill in the humanitarian information gap”. I’ve also been thinking for a while about how to best compare hackathon projects to determine which to support further (if the team’s willing to be supported of course) after each hackathon. Part of project management is asking whether something should be done, how it fits into existing ecosystems and how much gain it brings over alternative methods. In business, this is covered by return on investment – the percentage cash gain from the project relative to the money invested in it every year. It’s more complicated of course – project accounting needs to think about cash flows over time via things like net present value and IFO (income from operations) curves –…


Humanitarian ontologies

I’ve been thinking a lot about humanitarian and development data lately.  Helping, even, with the UNGIWG catalogs of what the UN is holding and how to obtain it.   And thinking about how best to make it available to an analyst – given what will hopefully become quite large datastores, how to traverse between datasets, crisis indicators and proxies . Which actually leads to three ideas. A lot of the data isn’t useful in itself.  What it’s useful for is the effects that it shows on more direct indicators and variables.  For example, the UN data includes divorce rates, marriages, deaths etc. These don’t tell us as much about vulnerability to crisis as the variable that connects them: household size. And wouldn’t it be nice to have an ontology that makes these variables explicit so we can link them to the proxies (the terms that we search for, like ‘household bills’),…


Choosing a web framework for analysis

The current project is an open source data analysis platform. It’s aimed at humanitarian and development data, but could be used to track other data too. It needs to work with existing big data and open data tools. And we have no budget to get it built. The idea is pretty simple. Give each analyst access to data, tools and a place they can store “hunches” – ideas about what’s going on in data that they haven’t fully formed yet, and would appreciate some help from other analysts on. Make each platform capable of operating off-tether (for those unfortunate moments when the local internet is down). And connect the platforms together so that people with similar problems can share ideas, best practices, interesting leads etc. Oh, and we have 6 months to build a pilot system, and are planning to use agile and test driven development techniques in the build….