TED@UPS: What If Data was Donated?

Companies give money and time to humanitarian issues. But what about data?Companies give money and time to humanitarian issues. But what about data?
Nov 14, 2016 11:00 AM ET
Campaign: Thought Leadership

Mallory Soldner | UPS 

Companies are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to solve the world’s most vexing problems. What many firms don’t realize, however, is that they already have a silver bullet at their disposal. It’s their data.

If corporations focused as much on donating information as money, we could make immediate changes around the globe.

Mallory Soldner, UPS Advanced Analytics Manager, explains how in her TED@UPS talk posted this week on TED.com. Longitudes spoke with Mallory about her talk and the impact she hopes it will have – check out the Q&A below after you watch her talk.

Q. What was the most enlightening surprise from the TED@UPS experience and why?

Giving a talk at TED@UPS was quite the roller coaster. Walking off the stage was a feeling of complete elation after months of preparation, countless drafts and plenty of last-minute nerves.

The number of follow-up conversations that I have already had after TED@UPS about spreading data philanthropy has been a wonderful surprise.

It’s coming of age for using data for positive impact, and I can’t wait to see what kinds of conversations the broader release of the talk can help generate.

Q. What do you hope people will take from your talk?

Data can be more powerful in a wider range of areas than most people realize.

  • Data generated from cellphone pings to towers can be used to find movement patterns in people. This can help you track how malaria might spread.
  • Satellite imagery can track how a drought is impacting food production. This can help trigger aid funding before a crisis occurs.
  • Technology used to capture package deliveries can be transformed to tracking handover of supplies in refugee camps. This can help ensure the right supplies are available for the families in need.

All of these illustrate ways that companies are giving back to the greater good through data philanthropy.

Companies are doing this by donating (i) their data, (ii) their decision scientists and (iii) their technology to capture new sources of data.

The next generation of corporate social responsibility is using data and companies’ decision-scientist expertise to solve the big problems our world is facing.

I hope my talk gets people asking questions.

What insights are hidden in data that is just sitting behind firewalls?

What more could be done with data that isn’t being collected yet in the humanitarian sector?

Why aren’t we moving at a faster rate given the existing track record of success in pilot projects?

Q. How did giving a TED@UPS talk inspire you?

Giving a talk at TED@UPS was a chance to step out of my day-to-day role, to imagine what could be, and to pose provocative ideas and questions with some of UPS’s best and brightest.

Getting to know the other speakers and their stories was one of the highlights of the experience.

You never know if someone you walk by every day in the hallway is sitting on an amazing idea or that the person in the cube around the corner has a beautiful backstory and perspective on the world.

I found both of these to be true and am now connected to an amazing network of TED@UPS speakers.

Q. How would you inspire someone thinking about giving a TED@UPS talk?  

I am grateful for the experience of giving a TED@UPS talk and for the TED coaches and staff that mentored us throughout this wild ride.

For others considering applying to give a talk, I think it’s a platform like no other for sharing an idea you are passionate about, and my advice would be to brace yourself for everything you think you know about giving a presentation to be challenged.

Mallory Soldner is an advanced analytics manager at UPS. She works on research and development projects and consults within the company.