2019 John Western Public Lecture
River Room, Customs House, 399 Queen Street, Brisbane.
10 September 2019
Data analytics in the public sector – the tortoise or the hare?
This event is organised by The University of Queensland’s School of Social Science and Institute for Social Science Research in honour of former UQ Professor of Sociology John Western AM. All are welcome to attend. For catering purposes, please register by 5 September 2019.
About the lecture: Data analytics techniques like predictive risk modeling offer incredible opportunities to learn from rich data sets. Whatever service or product you are ‘selling’, whoever you are serving, data analytics offers the chance to connect with the right person in the right way at the right time. But while the private sector has been quick to realise the benefits of analytics, the public sector, besieged as it is with intractable and ‘wicked’ problems, has so far been the tortoise. So why isn’t the public sector keeping up? Despite best intentions, many organisations that have tried to use data analytics for good have delivered cautionary tales rather than inspiring case studies. The failures often stem from inadequate considerations of elements including ethics, transparency, fairness, racial disparities and social license. There is an emerging set of ground rules about what the community deems acceptable uses of data analytics for social good. Rhema will share a short history of data analytics for social good, talk about the emerging ‘rules of engagement’ and share her own experiences in implementing the Allegheny Family Screening Tool – a child welfare decision support tool – in Allegheny County, PA (United States).
About the presenter: Rhema holds a partial appointment at the Institute for Social Science Research as a Professor of Social Data and Analytics. She is also a Professor of Economics at Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand) where she is director of the Centre for Social Data Analytics, a research centre focused on using data analytics for social impact. Additionally, Rhema is Director of the Singapore Life Panel, a large population-representative monthly survey run from Singapore Management University. Rhema is internationally recognised for implementation of machine learning tools in high stakes government systems such as child welfare. Her work has been published in top journals and profiled in TheNew York Times and Nature. Her methods for screening child abuse calls using machine learning tools are being adopted internationally. She is frequently invited to speak to government agencies, researchers and practitioners around the world about ethical use of machine learning tools in public policy. Rhema has held research positions in Australia, Singapore and the United States, including a Harkness Fellowship at Harvard University.