I had a chance to sit down with Rayid Ghani, the Director of the Center for Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago. I have admired Rayid’s work ever since he became the Chief Scientist for the 2012 Barack Obama campaign. His strategic use of analytics set the precedent for a new era of data science in political campaigns. At the time, others were trying to reverse engineer his tactics, which meant he was always one step ahead of the other campaigns.
In the marketing world, big data is used to answer ostensibly minute questions every day: are computer mouse movements predictive of purchasing? Does an orange background increase user engagement? In every place with Silicon in its name, there are teams of data scientists asking these questions.
In the social sector, by contrast, answering helpful questions is more difficult. For instance, is our program reducing homelessness? How is health spending distributed across the state?