There are amazing opportunities for empowering more people to understand how to use data for the things that they care about\nJeanne Holm was running the publications department at NASA, when \u201cthis thing called the internet came.\u201d\nIt was around 1991 and her team were sharing files, but with clunky technologies.\n\u201cWhen web pages came out, I said, \u2018oh my god, this is the future\u2019.\u201d\n\u201cWe were printing books and technical papers and I could see the shift happening towards the internet,\u201d she says. \nShe led the project setting up the first web pages at NASA.\nLooking back now, she says, it was about change management.\n\u201cI took a group of people who were typists, hot lead typesetters, writers and editors, and transformed them into a digital literate and tech savvy team.\u201d\nShe learned a lot working on those projects, but she wanted to go back to school to \u201cfill the gaps\u201d on her expanding work in information technology.\nHolm, who has an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and English, went on to complete a PhD in management of information systems.\nShe has worked at a range of organisations including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology for NASA, Walt Disney Company, The World Bank and the United Nations. She was involved with Data.Gov, an open government flagship project for the White House under President Obama.\nToday, Holm is deputy CIO, assistant general manager and senior technology advisor to the Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. \nShe says her technology advisory work at the city means she is working \u201con everything, from autonomous vehicles to robotics and homeless initiatives.\u201d\n\u201cI work on social issues, technical issues. Anything where technology or data can better the outcomes.\u201d\nOne of the projects her team is working on is a child abuse prevention hackathon.\nNo caption\nTake the data, transform it into information, make it actionable and provide knowledge for people which then creates changes in the world\nAs deputy CIO, she oversees a lot of city services like the 111 call centre, the television stations for public education and the help desk. \n\u201cI feel like I have always been trying to get information to people. First, on the printed page, then online and then machine to machine as well as machine to humans.\u201d\nAnd then, she says, \u201cbeing able to take that data, transform it into information, make it actionable and provide knowledge for people which then creates changes in the world.\u201d\nHolm talks about working on some of the most innovative ways on how data can help people.\nA recurring theme in all her work is this:\u201cYou can teach data science and empower other people to do social good.\u201d\nWhen she joined the city government more than two years ago, she says the city was publishing data, but there was not an ecosystem of people who used the data.\nShe says the city then pulled together 14 local universities so each quarter, each semester, students and professors work in city departments on data science challenges.\nShe says they work with students and faculty from various departments. These include data science, statistics, public policy, architecture and design school. The latter help in visualisation and user interface aspects of the projects.\nOne of the projects created from that partnership is LAcomotion, she says. The project's aim was to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.\n\u201cWe wanted to create a way to automatically count the number of bicycles and pedestrians in the area and dynamically feed that data into our traffic system, so that we can change the timing of lights at intersections," she says \nThey are aided by cameras in this, but the process can be \u201ctricky\u201d, she says.\nThe cameras are in black and white with a wide angle (\u2018like fish\u2019). When somebody is walking against a wall there will be a shadow she says.\n\u201cWe figure out a way to remove static background pieces and then count the pieces that are moving and know when the person is moving in the video,\u201d she says.\nA Toyota foundation funded a project with one of the universities. The goal was to create an algorithm, using certain kind of filtering, to take the extreme shadowing out and be able to be almost 100 per cent accurate with the count of pedestrians and bicyclists. The pilot of the project was launched in LA this month.\nShe says another project they are working on is the problem of homeless people.\nAround 30,000 people sleep outside or do not have a house. \u201cIt is very sad and very hard to get people who are on the streets into housing, get them reunified with their families, and get medical help and help them get a job.\n\u201cIt is a long process, so we wanted to switch it around,\u201d she says. \u201cWhat if we can predict who is likely to become homeless?\u201d\nShe says they looked at the different indicators that could lead to homelessness. \n\u201cThe idea is to look at the questions we ask when people come to the city for services like workforce training and food stamps.\u201d\nThey also look at indicators. For instance, if a family member gets sick, they will be spending a lot of money for the treatment. Or, it could be an immigrant with no social networks and therefore will have no place to stay.\n\u201cWhat other services can we give them that will keep them from becoming homeless?\nA homeless person seeks shelter near the Hollywood Walk of Fame.\n What if we can predict who is likely to become homeless? What other services can we give them that will keep them from becoming homeless?\n\u201cBecause, sometimes it turns out people just need a month or two of help with the rent, or to have their car fixed, or pay for a parking ticket because they need the car to go to work.\n\u201cSometimes, a couple of hundred dollars of effort keeps that person their apartment or house. Those are the kinds of cases we are trying to use predictive analytics to help us understand.\u201d\n\u201cThat\u2019s the hope hellip; to prevent homelessness.\u201d\nHolm is a distinguished instructor at the UCLA, where she has been teaching for two decades on courses in knowledge management, big data, and civic innovation in underserved communities.\nHolm founded a startup called Africa Open Data. The group holds conferences three or four times a year in Africa, where they teach students and young people skills to understand what they do with data. \n\u201cWe get them to use specific data for social good,\u201d she says.\n\u201cWe give them data sets about health outcomes so they can figure out a grading system for local hospitals,\u201d is how she describes one such project.\n\u201cOr we give them data around natural disasters,\u201d she says. This will help them predict where they should not be building houses because people will be in danger.\n"We teach citizens to do data gathering, like identifying trash heaps where there is a potential for diseases.\n\u201cThere are amazing opportunities for empowering more people to understand how to use data for the things that they care about.\u201d\nWhen she was with the World Bank, she worked with the African government to help contain the Ebola outbreak.\nThere was a time a lot of fear how exactly it is being spread, she says. \n"We had to figure out what kind of data we could pull together and how we could best move the scarce medical supply that was becoming scarcer and scarcer, to where we thought the outbreaks may happen next."\nShe says having this approach around data applies to enterprises.\n\u201cIt is important for them to think about the data they can share,\u201d she says.\nBanks, for example, can use their data on lending practices to do some programmes with financial literacy.\n\u201cWe see a lot of people who are defaulting on their loans, it is in their own best interest to want people to be more financially savvy,\u201d she says. \n\u201cEmpowering anyone to use data, is key for me.\u201d\nNo caption\nRelated reading:\n\nStaying ahead of the disruption curve: Top tips from Sonya Crosby, chief innovation officer at SkyCityThe outliers\u2019 roadmap for building the data-driven enterprise: An interview with Katarina Kolich and David Thomas of Bank of New Zealand\nOn a mission to promote open data for public good and business innovation: Meet Paul Stone, the New Zealand Open Government Data Programme Leader\nDr Thomas H. Davenport on the data scientist in the age of AI and IoTDame Diane Robertson talks about data being used for the benefit or as a deficient model for Kiwis\nSend news tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org\nFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter:@divinap\nFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz\nJoin us on Facebook.