Using data science to shape business and society

Strong technical skills and a firm code of ethics are central in using data science to drive positive value for business and society.

This week I’ve embarked on a personal journey to further develop my analytics skills. Over the next 2 years, I’ll be studying an MSc in Business Analytics at Imperial College alongside my day-job. I’m looking forward to enhancing my practical data science skills in courses such as machine learning and network analytics. We live in an era where we have oceans of data available to us. Analytics can unlock the power of this data to optimise business decision-making.

Also this week, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and the Royal Statistical Society launched joint guidance on ethics in data science. It’s great to see these two leading institutions providing practical guidance to members on using data science in our work. Actuaries are very experienced in applying statistics to solve business problems in a way that protects the public interest. The guidance provides a useful checklist for actuaries who want to embrace the latest data science techniques.

Among the guidance, is an emphasis on the concepts of fairness and transparency. To ensure these are upheld, I believe strong technical data science skills are needed.

Fairness is central to enhancing the positive value of data science for society. We need to proactively use analytics techniques that highlight any potential biases in the data and then take steps to overcome these. This will help to ensure that data-driven decision-making is deployed in a way that improves equality in our society, rather than perpetuating any long-standing biases that might be present in the data.

Transparency goes hand-in-hand with fairness. Business decision-makers and the public need to have a better understanding of how data science is shaping the world around us. Strong communication skills will be vital in achieving this. As such, I’m particularly excited to further develop my data visualisation skills on Imperial’s MSc program. By being able to clearly communicate how a model is working, it will be easier for stakeholders and the public to judge that the model is fair and working as intended.

To ensure that data science shapes business and society in a positive way, I believe a code of ethics on its own is not enough. A strong technical understanding is vital in ensuring that we deploy data science in a way that is fair. It’s important to use analytics techniques to validate that there are no untoward biases that could harm society. To ensure optimal and fair decision-making, we should also develop visualisation tools that communicate to business decision-makers and the public how data is being used to shape the world around us.

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