Data Science Innovation

‘Our algorithms contain any element you can think of’

Maarten van der Veen

Oprichter en strategic lead van 510

Humanitarian aid is since long not just a matter of good intentions: it must be quick, honest and cost efficient. 510 has understood that perfectly. With data and digital products, they help Red Cross Societies all over the world to streamline emergency relief before, during and after hurricanes. For years, Pipple has been contributing as well.

Damage estimations

Only days after hurricane Irma stopped raging on Sint Maarten, 510 already knew which materials were needed to repair the damage by analyzing drone pictures of buildings and rooftops. Besides, 510 produces risk maps. If a hurricane threatens the Philippines, for instance, algorithms measure for every municipality how badly it will be affected and how many citizens are involved. “Our algorithms contain any element you can think of”, Maarten van der Veen tells, founder and lead strategic of 510, named after the amount of million square kilometers earth measures. “Wind speeds and volumes of rain of 24 typhoons in the past, for example, but also the dispersion of literacy, possessions and education.”

Pipple is a supporter

Sixteen staff members work at 510, supported by dozens of professional volunteers and trainees. Most of them come from universities and large companies. Since their foundation in 2016, Pipple has been a loyal supporter of 510, despite its modest size. The company sympathizes with 510’s mission and contributes knowledge and a part of the profit to support their cause. Van der Veen: “Pipple offers starting econometrists a chance to do research on our humanitarian projects. They take care of their allowance and the lion’s share of their accompaniment. In that way, we can enjoy the perks of Pipple’s knowledge.” One such project is ‘121’, a system that channels gifts of donors directly to the victim that needs it most. Algorithms assign amounts and beneficiaries in a flash, based on criteria like family composition, income and loss of income.

World wide data departments

“But even with the smartest data analyst in your company, you are still dependent on the data.”

– Maarten van der Veen – founder and strategic lead of 510

The opportunities of data science seem endless. “But even with the smartest data analysist in your company, you are still dependent on the data”, Van der Veen knows. “They often lack. Or they exist, but governments refuse to share them.” Also, algorithms designed for one area are not transferrable to another. That’s why a growing number of Red Cross Societies start their own data department, with the help of 510. Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Mali, The Philippines, Ethiopia and Canada already operate such a department or are working on one. Van der Veen: “In an ideal world, they have enough capacity of their own. Then we can develop our techniques in hard data science and share that knowledge with them.”