Last September the White House honored Michael Flowers, New York’s Director of Policy and Strategic Planning Analytics, as a Champion of Change. Flowers’ team figures out ways to use an effective combination of common sense and analysis of data, which is now easily available on the internet to efficiently solve some of New York’s vexing problems, including combating prescription drug abuse, property fraud, and figuring out which restaurants are illegally dumping grease into the city’s sewers.
This is an example of new tools that are now available largely because of the internet.
It may be true that the internet is killing some industries. Print newspapers may be dying and bookstores are failing, but the internet is creating or transforming others. I was really impressed by the simple but powerful idea that flu outbreaks can be identified by studying google searches. And now Mayor Bloomberg’s low budget office is solving high level problems that have been largely intractable until now.
Here is an example with a quote from a press release from the NYC Mayor’s office.
“To identify properties with a higher-risk of fire death, for instance,
the Policy and Strategic Planning Analytics Team combined FDNY data with
information on illegal housing conversion complaints, foreclosures, tax liens
and neighborhood demographics. The Analytics Team then created a risk
assessment model that provides a list of the highest risk properties with
illegal conversion complaints. These high-risk locations are jointly
inspected within 48 hours by the Department of Buildings and FDNY, and
the joint inspection team uncovered unsafe conditions for inhabitants 70
percent of the time using this predictive model … a five-fold increase in
effectiveness over typical inspections.”
See also this article in The New York Times.
To me these really interesting ways that math is used to address social issues are exactly the theme of MPE2013. I’d love to hear of more examples like these.
Director, American Institute of Mathematics