The Data for Children Collaborative with Unicef has revealed its first three projects which will use data to deliver new ways of tackling childhood obesity, address child poverty and improve child population estimates locally, nationally and globally.
The Collaborative, currently based at The Data Lab, is a partnership between the global children’s charity, the Scottish Government and Edinburgh University’s Data Driven Innovation Programme.
It is designed to draw on the strengths of all partners to bring insight and use data to solve problems facing children. The projects were picked following a joint review involving all three partners.
Globally, 40 million children under the age of 5 years old, and 340 million between the age of 5 and 18 years old, are obese. Some 29% of Scottish children are obese. The project seeks to understand what children are eating and how it is influenced in different settings, initially in Scotland with scalability to have global impact. A five-phase activity plan will result in a scorecard tool that will be implemented globally after a pilot programme, with stratified interventions.
Meanwhile, the population estimates programme seeks to make invisible children visible, so that child services such as healthcare, education, protection and vaccinations can be planned appropriately for every child. Census population estimates can be improved by using satellite imagery and other big data sources, and a better understanding of populations will allow better allocation of resources.
Finally, the child poverty project will combine household data with non-traditional information such as geospatial data to assess the issue more periodically than is possible relying only on surveys carried out every few years. Moreover, the project seeks to understand and test whether and where access to social services is a barrier or a driver of child poverty in order to improve policy interventions.
Alex Hutchison, who has been appointed as delivery director, will be responsible for taking the first three projects forward. He said: "Each project has the potential to make a real, positive impact on children’s lives worldwide. Pairing insights with data enables us to better understand what is driving childhood obesity and child poverty, and more accurate population estimates will help develop a widely scalable approach to tackling hugely important issues."
Head of Unicef UK in Scotland Lucinda Rivers added: "[Our] mission is to drive better results for more children, but we can only do this by using the power of evidence to deliver a better understanding of some of the challenges they face.
"We are grateful to the Scottish Government and the University of Edinburgh for supporting this ambition through their support of the Data for Children Collaborative. The world-leading data science and artificial intelligence capabilities now available to Unicef through this collaboration will help us achieve better results for more children."