The GovLab at NYU Tandon Launches Website on “Data Collaboratives” – New Forms of Public-Private Data Exchanges that Create Public Value

DataCollaboratives.org Examines More than 70 Examples of How Sharing Corporate Data Can Solve Complex Societal Problems and Improve People’s Lives

The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering has launched a new website, DataCollaboratives.org,  to encourage the formation of public-private partnerships in which participants from different sectors — private companies, research institutions, government agencies, and others — exchange data to help solve pressing public problems.    

“Recent years have seen exponential growth in the amount of data generated and stored around the world, and there is increasing acknowledgement that big data could play a key role in helping to address issues such as world hunger, disaster relief, and disease prevention if data were made widely available to those in positions to glean insights from the information and act upon it,” said Beth Simone Noveck, the Jerry M. Hultin Professor at NYU Tandon and director of The GovLab.

Through different partnerships with UNICEF (focused on creating data collaboratives to improve children’s lives) and Omidyar Network (studying new ways to match open-data demand and supply to increase impact), The GovLab has cataloged dozens of cases in which data collaboratives are already being used for the public good. Based upon The GovLab’s research, data collaboratives provide: 

  • Increased situational awareness and response, as demonstrated by a joint initiative between Orbital Insights and the World Bank to use satellite imagery to measure and track poverty
  • Greatly improved public service design and delivery, as demonstrated by governments using crowd-sourced traffic information to help create better transportation systems
  • Enhanced knowledge creation and transfer, as illustrated by an ambitious effort on the part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 10 biopharmaceutical companies, and non-profit organizations to share data to create new, more effective diagnostics and therapies
  • Cutting-edge prediction and forecasting, as shown when Intel and the Earth Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, employed satellite imagery to predict drought and develop targeted interventions for farmers and government agencies
  • More effective impact assessment and evaluation, such as occurred when Nielsen and the World Food Program used data collected via mobile phones to better monitor food insecurity and allocate resources

According to Stefaan Verhulst, The GovLab’s co-founder and director of research and the head of its Data Collaboratives Initiative, the diverse examples detailed on the site clearly demonstrate the potential of data collaboration as an emerging model of inter-sector digital philanthropy.

“In the coming months and years, they will be essential vehicles for harnessing the vast stores of privately held data toward the public good,” Verhulst said.

Natalia Adler, a data, research, and policy planning specialist at UNICEF and UNICEF Data Collaboratives project lead, agreed: “At UNICEF, we’re dealing with the world’s most complex problems affecting children. Data collaboratives offer an exciting opportunity to tap previously inaccessible datasets and mobilize a wide range of data expertise to advance child rights around the world. It’s all about connecting the dots.”

In addition to the lessons provided by more than 70 examples of how corporate data was exchanged to improve people’s lives, DataCollaboratives.org provides guidance for designing and implementing a data collaborative, including steps to take to avoid the risks that data sharing can entail.

The launch of DataCollaboratives.org is being held in concert with both the inaugural United Nations World Data Forum, in Cape Town, South Africa, where Verhulst will help facilitate a two-day workshop on data collaboratives, and the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, whose focus this year is on “Responsive and Responsible Leadership” and where Noveck will speak on strategies for using data for public good.



About The Governance Lab
The GovLab is an action-research center with a mission to improve people’s lives by changing the practice of governance. The center is dedicated to leveraging advances in technology to enable more open, collaborative, effective, and legitimate ways to make better decisions and solve public problems. For more information visit: www.thegovlab.org.  

About the NYU Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, when the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly) were founded. Their successor institutions merged in January 2014 to create a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention, and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within the country’s largest private research university and is closely connected to engineering programs in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates business incubators in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program.

Learn more about: Beth Simone Noveck