Using analytics for social good

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Sharath Kumar
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SINGAPORE: As young, eager and ambitious students with keen interest to put their newly acquired knowledge of data analytics to good use, they are often looking for real world business problems to solve. At the same time, there are many non-profit organizations which are operationally and resource challenged that are eager to embark and embrace data analytics to be more effective and efficient.


To address this gap, the “Analytics for Social Good” (ASG) movement was established in mid-2014 by SAS, together with the SAS Singapore User Group Executive Committee and Working Committee members. The ASG movement sought to propagate the benefits of data analytics, empower Volunteer Welfare Organizations (VWOs), by enabling them to derive insights from data for better functioning, encourage collaboration between data professionals, corporates, VWOs and academia to address social issues through data analytics and facilitate deeper engagement between corporates and VWOs.


The ASG attracted students from the NUS Business Analytics Consulting Team (BACT) and SMU Business Intelligence & Analytics Student Interest Group. PCS Securities, a close partner of SAS, also kindly volunteered their resources and hosted the technology environment – a key component in the ASG movement.

The students were paired with different VWOs, mentored by SAS User Group volunteers and assisted by SAS and PCS Securities consultants, to make sense of the raw data provided using tools like SAS Visual Analytics. In total, approximately 30 students committed to this project, outside of their standard curriculum time.


“We’re extremely heartened with the results from the pilot program – we’ve heard positive feedback from both the student groups and the VWOs, and are working closely with them to make improvements to the second phase of the program. Through this, we hope that the students have a better understanding of working outside a classroom environment, and at the same time also learn how to use tools like SAS Visual Analytics to drive business outcomes,” said Tan Poh Choo, Operations Director for SAS.

Working with O’Joy

The ASG recently concluded the pilot program for O’Joy, one of the identified VWOs. O’Joy specializes in providing counselling and casework services and mental health care and community wellness, and wanted to better understand how to improve operations via data analytics. From the basics of ensuring clean data to mastering the tools of the trade, students were required to not only take on the role of a data analyst, but also a business consultant for these VWOs.

“It was a great learning experience out of the classroom – we were tasked to use analytics tools to see how we could add value to O’Joy, but we also played a larger role beyond being just a data analyst. While it was a steep learning curve for us, the added responsibilities allowed us to understand the different functions of a business and how to look at approaching problems from a holistic point of view,” said Celeste Chia, External Deputy Lead, Business Analytics Consulting Team, NUS.

SAS established the “Analytics for Social Good” movement in 2014, involving students from local universities and encouraging them to use data to address social issues in Singapore. The first phase was completed in July 2015, and SAS will be looking to embark on the next phase from Jan 2016.

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