International Data Summit: Can data be used for social good?

15 Jun 2017

Image: Alex Buzila/Shutterstock

We talk to leading Irish social entrepreneurs about how data can be used to improve society.

A focal point of the Irish Government’s international Data Summit in Dublin will be how data can be used for social good.

The Government is cementing the country’s position as a stakeholder and authority on data and digital with an international Data Summit that will be held today and tomorrow (15 and 16 June).

The event, which takes place at the Convention Centre in Dublin, is being organised by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Government Data Forum.

It will bring together thought leaders from across the sector to discuss the social, technical and ethical issues that arise in the digitised world, especially trust and privacy.

Tech for good

In a panel discussion this week,’s editor John Kennedy spoke with social entrepreneurs about how data is enabling them to make a difference.

These included Eoghan Ryan of the Social Innovation Fund and ThinkTech accelerator; Emma Walsh, COO, FoodCloud; Marianne Checkley, CEO, iScoil; and Aoife Corcoran, COO and co-founder, Space Engagers.

The Social Innovation Fund is a non-profit organisation set up by the Government to help develop social innovation in Ireland. The organisation will provide growth capital and support to the best social innovations in Ireland, helping to maximise their impact. The fund is the main backer of the ThinkTech accelerator, a €1m ‘tech for good’ fund that supports tech-based solutions to Ireland’s critical social issues.

Online learning community iScoil offers an alternative path to learning, accreditation and progression. The project works to provide a safe environment where young people can re-engage with education, achieve recognised certification, and access further education, training and employment opportunities. On iScoil, each student is unique and the programme is tailored to his or her individual needs.

Space Engagers tackles homelessness by engaging citizens to map vacant urban spaces in their communities. Citizens can provide real, local data to help create positive change together with Space Engagers.

FoodCloud Hubs uses technology to rescue surplus food from businesses and distribute it to charities across Ireland. It has redistributed more than 12m meals in the UK and Ireland since its inception.

The panel members explored how data became the canvas on which each of their organisations were built, core lessons learned about privacy, and how their businesses are preparing for the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years