Meet the Eight Data Science Summer School (DS3) Students!

This time last summer, I was part of Microsoft’s Data Science Summer School (DS3) and now I have the pleasure of introducing you to this summer’s incoming class. This is the fourth annual class of the DS3 program, which is an intense eight-week journey into the wild world of data science that culminates in students writing an original research paper. Keep reading to learn more about them!

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A Summer of STEM at Microsoft Store

Launch into summer with skills-based training at the Microsoft Store!

Our Flagship Microsoft Store at Fifth Avenue is bringing STEM skills to students with a series of FREE YouthSpark summer camps for students aged 6 and up.

This summer series kicks off with an 8-hour hackathon called B-STEM: We Hack Too. We Hack Too is an 8-day virtual hackathon that includes a FREE 1-day launch event inside our Microsoft Store on Friday, June 23. The 1-day event is a Business Development & Design Incubator where girls ages 8-13 attend 2 hours game design workshops (9 am, 12:30 pm and 5 pm).

In addition, high school and college level women collaborate with professional mentors to design products and develop business strategies (8:30am – 7:30 pm). Mentors, Speakers, Food, Swag, Tech Prizes and more. Pre-registration is now open and space is limited. To register and for more information visit

Then, the Store starts its summer series with weekly camps for students:

For students aged 6-8:

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Make Your Own Story with PowerPoint and Word

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 6 to 8 will learn how to create and tell a story using Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. They will explore using drawing tools, selecting and sizing images and icons, creating backgrounds and changing fonts. Activities will focus on learning through hands on guided experiences and collaborative learning in small groups.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with key tools in PowerPoint and Word
  • Feel confident using a Surface Device and Pen
  • Create an original story with text and images in a small group

For students aged 8-12:

Code and Create Games with Ozobot Robotics

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8–12 will learn to code and create games with Ozobot robotics. They’ll explore programming the Evo robot with block coding, from completing simple commands right through to creating a dance game. They’ll also learn how robotics are used in the 21st Century and be inspired with how they can be involved.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with how robots work
  • Have hands-on experience with block coding and how to program the Evo robot
  • Understand the importance of robotics

Code and Create with Collage Me

Learn how to code in this hands-on programming camp. During the free two-hour Camp, students ages 8 to 12 will work in a real software development environment, gaining experience with Touch Develop. Participants will use their creativity and imagination to develop a unique personal collage that can be shared with family and friends.

At the end of this camp, participants will:

  • Have increased confidence in their technical and coding skills
  • Improve their computational and creative thinking
  • Read and understand code in the Touch Develop environment
  • Create and publish a coded script containing a personal collage

It is recommended that your student bring their own set of headphones for an optimal experience.

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8 to 12 will learn to create and share their own digital art with the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. They’ll explore the basics of Fresh Paint, using lifelike oil and watercolors, pastels, and more to craft their own creations. They’ll also get a sneak peek of advanced digital art skills like mixing paint and layering media.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the creative possibilities of digital drawing and painting
  • Have experience with the Fresh Paint layout and tools
  • Create original artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share their art with the swipe of a finger

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Kodu Makerspace Event

Create rich and exciting games with Kodu Game Lab in this free, beginner-level coding camp for students ages 8 to 12.

They’ll work on Kodu games like Boku’s Amazing Race, Flashy Fishbots, and Air Delivery. In the process, they learn how interesting and powerful games can be created with simple building blocks and techniques. Participants will: analyze and revise game character, write code to create game action, collaboratively plan and create a Kodu game, give and receive peer feedback, and explore the iterative design process. Some activities will be interactive tutorials, while others entail hands-on, open-ended game design. Every session will include collaborative design and development activities.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Get Creative with 3D in Windows 10 Camp

The world we live in is multidimensional, so shouldn’t our art be as well? Students ages 8-12 will bring their imagination to life by learning new Paint 3D in Windows 10. This free 2-hour field trip offers a high-energy, collaborative environment for participants to fuel their creativity and learn key tools and features of the 3D app.

At the end of the field trip, participants will have:

  • Learned the fundamentals of the Paint 3D app and all about community
  • Learned how to express their ideas in three dimensions by creating their own 3D designs
  • Hands-on experience with Microsoft devices and software via a scavenger hunt through Microsoft Store

For students 13+:

Learn to Code with Flatverse

In this free coding camp, students ages 13 and over will use Touch Develop, an interactive programming environment website, to create and publish their own video game called Flatverse.

As they build their game, they learn about various computer programming and coding concepts, including screen coordinates, random numbers, objects and functions, and more. Throughout the camp series, they will take a deeper dive into these programming and coding concepts to gain more confidence and skill. The ultimate goal is for participants to gain an appreciation for coding’s role in the games they may play in their daily lives, and to provide an inspirational foundation for pursuing their interest in computer science.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Shoot Edit & Share with PicsArt 

Increase your photo shooting and editing creativity with this free YouthSpark Camp. During this camp series, students ages 13 and older will learn how to use PicsArt, an interactive editing, drawing, and collage app. This app, which is available on Windows 10 devices, includes numerous photo-editing features, customizable filters, text options, a collage maker, and a camera. Learn how to transform photos into works of art with just the tip of your finger.​​

At the end of this Workshop, participants will:​​

  • Know how to use a powerful photo-editing software​​
  • Understand composition and best practices for photography​​Learn to sketch and turn anything into a drawing
  • Create easy graphic design edits​​
  • Create amazing photo edits ​​
  • Leave with a certificate of completion and an image portfolio​​

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

Explore the freedom and power of creating original digital art with this free 2 hour camp on the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. Students ages 13 and older will use an array of tools to create lifelike paintings, original drawings, collages, and so much more. They’ll take a tour of Fresh Paint basics, then explore more advanced skills like blending paint colors and layering mixed media to create their own unique works of art. Activities and experiences are a central part of the class, with opportunities to share artwork and to learn along with peers.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Know some of the creative possibilities of digital art
  • Be familiar with brushes, mixing palettes, canvas options, and more
  • Explore features like switching tools, mixing colors, and importing pictures
  • Create meaningful artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share art with the swipe of a finger

Start Your Own Business

Success has no boundaries. This free four-session camp series helps students ages 13 and older turn their passion into a great entrepreneurial business idea. Participants get guidance developing their ideas into a robust business plan and a polished pitch ready to share with the world.

Each two-hour session takes students through a series of engaging hands-on group activities to introduce key business concepts, including:

• How to create a product or service
• Marketing and promotion
• Pricing and costs
• Manufacturing and distribution

During the final session, participants will have the opportunity to present their complete business plan for feedback and insight.

Register today to reserve a camp spot at

Fellow Profile: Aasha Shaik

Where are you from? Plainsboro, New Jersey (in Central Jersey, near Princeton!)

School/grad year/major: I just finished my first year at Rutgers University, so I will be graduating in May of 2020. I am majoring in Political Science, Business Analytics & Information Technology, and Middle Eastern Studies, with a possible minor in International & Global Studies.

Last thing you searched on Bing: NJ Transit train schedule (boring, I know)

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I have done gender equality advocacy work at the United Nations since my junior year of high school, and I actually met John Paul Farmer at a UN event I was asked to speak at back in September during the opening week of the UN General Assembly. He is the one who told me about the team and the fellowship, and it immediately interested me because most of my experience has been on the political science/international affairs side of things until now — so this seemed like an amazing opportunity to explore a multi-disciplinary field that intersects with both business and politics. Most important to me, it has a very real impact on communities.

What’s your favorite civic project in the New York area? I admire HeatSeek NYC a lot because it does important work that addresses a lot of overlooked groups of people who need it, and has a tangible effect in terms of aiding related legal work. Although not all strictly civic tech, I’m also a fan of the work that Elizabeth Demaray does; I did a winter course on STEAM (intersection of STEM and art) and we met with Elizabeth about her work. It includes the Hand Up Project, which involves 3D printing shells for crabs who are running out of natural homes. We also did a workshop relating to her upcoming Manhattan Tundra project, which has to do with the use of rooftops in NYC — I know there are other groups working on the idea as well, and I think the concept as a whole has an immense amount of potential. Many parts of the STEAM movement as a whole seem to overlap with civic tech.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I work under John and Matt Stempeck, and I honestly would not have known very much about civic tech as a field at all if not for meeting John at that UN event. Now that I have joined the team, both of them have been amazing at helping introduce me to the civic tech space, and are also super inspiring with the work they do both within and outside of the team!

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft New York? So far I’ve been updating data on, specifically researching more international entities. For the new projects we are working on this summer, we have decided to focus on two areas: the environment and women’s empowerment/gender inequality. Both are extremely relevant and critical given current events and are personally really important to me, especially women’s empowerment. I’m very excited to see where we can take them!

What excites you about civic tech? The immense amount of impact it can have, and the dedication of the people involved in the space to serving people and furthering good.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Definitely greater accountability of public officials, whether it be the police or government. As a whole, I hope it will help empower traditionally marginalized communities, whether through that accountability or access to tools and resources.

Looking Ahead to Personal Democracy Forum, June 8-9, 2017

As we gear up for #PDF17, we thought it would be a great time to revisit some of the highlights from last year’s Personal Democracy Forum! For background, the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) is an annual conference that began in 2004. The conference aims to bring technologists, campaigners, hackers, journalists, academics, activists, and more together to focus on solving society’s biggest problems.

Last year, in the heat of the 2016 election, panels and workshops covered everything from “Government as a Digital Service” to how technology was being used by peer-to-peer organizing networks to support female candidates for office. A highlight of the event was the launch of Civic Hall Labs, the non-profit R&D branch of NYC’s Civic Hall, a center for civic tech innovation.

Get ready for PDF 2017 by watching a few of the talks below and be sure to take a look at the exciting line-up for this year’s conference, June 8-9.

Comedienne Luna Malbroux discusses her app and  how humor is a critical way to to broach heavy topics.

Jason Mogus, principal strategis at Communicopia explains “How Advocacy Campaign are Won in the 21st Century”

danah boyd of Microsoft Research cautions against the risks of bad coding from an environmental and social justice perspective

Follow along for updates from this year’s conference and join the conversation on social media using #PDF17 and @CivicHall.

Register for Personal Democracy Forum 2017 here.

Bringing Street Safety to the Next Frontier of Smart Cities

In Microsoft’s Civic Tech Engagement group, we partner with civic organizations and governments not only to create new ways to leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities but also to sustain and scale those innovations across cities and communities. Therefore, we are thrilled to announce that we are partnering with Open Data Nation to lay the groundwork on innovative approaches to applying data science to transportation safety. Open Data Nation will build on the collaborative experimentation of DataKind, Seattle, New York, New Orleans and Microsoft to empower more cities to integrate data science into their Vision Zero programs. We welcome the CEO of Open Data Nation, Carey Anne Nadeau, as a guest blogger to articulate the opportunity and approach for this partnership.  

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

Smart city technologies and data science techniques are making incredible and swift leaps forward – from smart sensors that detect smog to analytics that guide efficient water use in times of drought – but in this figurative race to the moon, select cities have been able to get projects off the ground while most others are stranded back on earth.

In a first-of-its-kind partnership between Microsoft and Open Data Nation, we’re tackling this inequity head on, lowering the barriers to entry, and making sure that the benefits of the smart cities movement diffuse to all who may share in and benefit from better, safer, and healthier cities.

We’ve identified a big issue in cities, where a broad-based, adaptable solution can have great impact. In 2016, the number of people who died in a car crash spiked to nearly 18,000, the most since 2008. From Fort Lauderdale to Seattle, at least 40 US cities have recognized that traffic crashes are putting bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers at risk in their communities. And, mayors in each city have signed on to the Vision Zero Initiative, pledging to reduce the number of traffic deaths to zero.

While a common goal to prevent injuries and save lives is clearly articulated, the Vision Zero Initiative is not prescriptive, and each of the 40 cities has taken its own unique approach to traffic safety planning. For example, the three cities that worked with DataKind and Microsoft applied data science techniques to local priorities, identifying factors that contribute to incidents, prioritizing investments, and tracking the impact of interventions (Read more about these three cities in the case study here and many more here).

Over the course of 2017, Open Data Nation will build from these early examples to guide the next frontier of Vision Zero cities to explore a data science approach. First, we’ll work with interested cities to advise them on what data is useful and how to prepare for data analysis. Then, we’ll work with three select cities to build models that predict where and when people are in the most danger of being struck and killed in car crashes.  Along the way, we’ll document the experience, creating relevant guidance that will lower barriers and enable even more cities, who prioritize traffic safety, to try what has already shown to be effective elsewhere.  

As driverless cars come down the pike, our vision for nationwide, real-time predictions of car crashes, could eventually equip vehicles with the safety features and routing technologies necessary to prevent injuries and save lives.

This collaboration represents a giant step forward in the smart city movement — it has matured to a point where best practices may be applied and progress may be shared more broadly. With this partnership, between Open Data Nation and Microsoft, we begin being better stewards for the smarter nation of tomorrow.

To participate as one of the three pilot cities, representatives can submit a brief statement of interest here: (

About Open Data Nation

Open Data Nation combines detailed public records and industry expertise to reveal new, leading indicators of risks that threaten lives and livelihoods in cities. This is not the first time Open Data Nation has made waves by bringing open data initiatives to scale. In 2015, the City of Chicago demonstrated that it was possible to predict health code violations, and today Open Data Nation’s technology helps better police foodborne illness outbreaks and workplace injuries, covering more than 62,000 restaurants.

Fellow Profile: Kaivan Kotval Shroff

Where are you from? Westchester, NY
School/grad year/major: Yale School of Management Class of 2017
Last thing you searched on Bing: Lorde’s album release date
Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I’m passionate about finding efficient ways to use big data and institutional power to solve social problems on a mass scale!
What’s your favorite civic project in the New York? I’m a big fan of the non-profit Year Up! The organization matches urban young adults with mentors and provides them with job training skills that give them the experience and opportunity they need to reach their full potential. I love how the organization uses corporate partnerships to not only find mentors for students, but to also establish a diverse talent pipeline in industries that may not have a high degree of lower-income and minority representation. This is a highly sustainable and progressive way to meet the needs of business and the underserved.
Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I’m impressed by how Mark Zuckerberg laid out his plan for the future of Facebook as a localized community hub.
What excites you about civic tech? Civic tech is an awesome way to empower and access disenfranchised demographics in a cost-effective and scalable way. Millions of us are engaging with our phones and laptops all day every day. Small changes applied on that scale can have critical impact on society and how we engage with one another!
What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Police misconduct and abuse

Microsoft Driving Smart New York City Innovations

I’m excited to join leaders from government, business and startups at this week’s first-ever Smart Cities NYC. As the premier sponsor of this unique event and through our ongoing business, Microsoft is helping customers drive smart-city initiatives around the globe, including many innovations here in New York.

Student wheels

The New York City Department of Education’s Office of Student Support Services (OSSS) “Illumination Program” is architecting some key innovations that leverage the Microsoft cloud, data warehousing and analytics, and artificial intelligence:

  • The New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation, which transports more than 600,000 students each day—the largest school transportation department in the U.S.—recently rolled out a pilot Global Positioning System (GPS) bus monitoring system on 500 school buses to increase efficiency, enhance safety for students, and better address parent and family inquiries and requests. The system is built on Azure and uses Power BI to capture and illustrate real-time information on locations, traffic conditions, students, drivers and attendants entering, riding and exiting a particular bus, and vehicle performance indicators. It monitors day-to-day diagnostics and also identifies which students get on and off the bus at certain times and at certain places so it can improve its routes and increase student safety.

Tech for traffic safety

Through a partnership with DataKind, Microsoft recently completed the Vision Zero Labs Project to develop valuable analytical models and tools to help the cities of New York, New Orleans and Seattle further their work to increase road safety. Vision Zero cities aim to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries to zero, and the more than a year-long Labs project was the first and largest multicity, data-driven collaboration of its kind supporting Vision Zero efforts within the U.S.

Family bonding over Skype

Hackensack University Medical Center was among the first to use Skype for Business to connect parents with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), providing a simple, secure and cost-effective way for families to bond when they cannot be together physically. This video provides a good overview, with more information in For NICU Parents, Skype Provides the ‘Next Best Thing’ and Skype in the NICU.

Better city services

New York City is embracing digital transformation to deliver better services, reduce costs and increase impact. For example:

  • Over 200 languages are spoken in New York City and 49 percent of New York families speak languages other than English at home. Having recently tested and proven that Microsoft Translator can handle many translation needs at little to no cost (as compared to $4 per minute for call-center translators), the city is now exploring how this technology and Surface devices could manage these conversations more effectively and efficiently. Translator also helps break the language barrier for schoolchildren learning English as a second language.

Supporting startups; training tech professionals

As our city looks for new ways to compete in the global economy, Microsoft is supporting local startups and training New Yorkers for good-paying tech jobs.  

  • Dedicated to fostering an ongoing engagement and dialogue between Microsoft and the local developer and startup community, New York’s Reactor provides a community space for connections, resources and talent. Located at leading startup incubator Grand Central Tech (GCT), Microsoft keeps regular office hours, with casual conversations in the GCT Hub area often leading to more engagement with the roughly 90 startups and entrepreneurs based there. By connecting with startups in their early phases, Microsoft experts can help address technical challenges and architect solutions.
  • In 2015, Microsoft joined with the City of New York to launch a first-of-its-kind, $10 million public-private partnership designed to support the growth of the city’s tech ecosystem. As part of that effort, Microsoft created the Tech Jobs Academy (TJA), an intensive, 18-week technical training program for unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers to gain the skills needed for in-demand tech jobs. Of the roughly 500 applicants to the first and second TJA cohorts, 50 were accepted into the program and 47 graduated, with the majority now working full-time in significantly higher paying tech careers.

These are just a few examples of our smart-city solutions, which are making New York an even smarter, more vibrant place to live and work. Please learn more at:

Real stories of digital transformation.

As general manager of the Enterprise & Partner Group for Microsoft’s New York Metro District, Laura A. Clayton McDonnell is focused on driving positive results, growing market share, developing high performance teams, and transforming customers and culture. She has held executive-level roles at Aspect Software, IBM, Rational Software, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Apple, and previously was in a private corporate and securities law practice. Clayton McDonnell received a bachelor of science degree, with distinction, from San Jose State University, and a JD-MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. She is admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C., and California, and received the 2008 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award. Clayton McDonnell is a member of the Women’s Forum of New York, an advisory committee member of the 92Y’s Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact, and a member of the board of directors of the Metro NY Chapter of the USNC for United Nations Women.

Why You Should Apply (Now!) for Microsoft’s Data Science Summer School

Last summer, I was utterly starstruck in the geekiest way possible. My peers and I in the Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School (DS3) had chosen to use Airbnb data for our final project. After we made our presentation to a packed room, a couple of data scientists working at Airbnb reached out to us to express interest in our paper, and we then presented our project to them in private. At the time, I just remember thinking to myself, “This is so cool!”

This Friday, April 21st, is the deadline for this summer’s version of DS3. So, if what you read here sounds interesting and you want to be a part of DS3, there’s no time to waste. Apply today!

DS3 is the brainchild of a handful of awesome Microsoft researchers – Jake Hofman, Justin Rao, and Sharad Goel – who wanted to inspire students and help create a more diverse and accessible field of data science. The program has two parts. First, you learn the equivalent of one semester of data science compressed into four weeks. It’s intense. In the mornings – which usually start around 10AM – renowned senior Microsoft researchers will privately teach you and seven other students cutting edge data science and statistics. No specific background is required, and they always make sure everyone understands what is going on. In the afternoon, you are left to complete a mini data science project, to put into practice the lessons you’re learning.
The second part of DS3 is the final project, which is the focus of the final four weeks. You form a team and work on your project for the entire day. You use real-world datasets to come up with an entirely original research paper. Each team typically has two mentors, and those mentors are there for the entire process: brainstorming research ideas, coding, writing the actual paper, learning how to cite properly and preparing for your presentation. My team’s research paper was accepted into conferences at MIT and the ACM’s Tapia Conference for Diversity in Computer Science, and that could not have happened without the amazing guidance of our mentors. I can’t stress how unbelievably awesome it is to have renowned researchers dedicate multiple weeks to help you write your first-ever research paper. They become your teachers, advisors, recommenders and debuggers. One of them has become an almost parental figure to me, and still advises me on my college classes to this day.

I highly encourage anyone who thinks data science, big data, and artificial intelligence are interesting — you should apply to DS3! You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be curious and willing to work hard. You will be surprised at how helpful and humble everyone at Microsoft is. To be honest, I didn’t like statistics at all and wasn’t the best at math. But in DS3, you come to realize that quantitative skills are only part of the equation, and that good data scientists must also be creative, reflective and inquisitive. I guarantee you no matter what background you have, DS3 will give you a lifetime of skills, inspiration, friends, and confidence. I’m now working as a Civic Tech Fellow on Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team – and I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t taken the leap of faith to spend a summer in DS3.

Data science is at a historic moment because it has already begun to change the way businesses and organizations work. It is applicable to so many more fields than you think. Like how the camera gave computers sight, data science is giving computers millions of new senses to interpret the world. There is a reason Harvard Business Review published an article proclaiming “Data Science: the Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”  I feel like I am part of something big, I have new superpowers with which to change the world, and it is all very exciting.

The deadline to apply to the Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School (DS3) is this Friday, April 21st. Any interested college student can learn more and apply here.

Using Data Science to Improve Traffic Safety

As U.S. traffic deaths continue to rise, cities across America are increasingly focused on eliminating crash-related injuries and fatalities. Data can be a powerful resource in these efforts to make streets safer.  We’re happy to support this effort, partnering with DataKind, which recently completed the Vision Zero Labs Project. This effort worked to develop valuable analytical models and tools to help the cities of New York, Seattle and New Orleans further their work to increase road safety.

In partnership with DataKind, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of data science in service of humanity, and the New York City Department of Transportation, we launched this project in August 2015, joining forces with the Seattle Department of Transportation and the City of New Orleans’ Office of Performance and Accountability in March 2016. With these cities, the Vision Zero Labs Project has become the first and largest multi-city, data-driven collaboration of its kind to drive traffic safety efforts in the U.S.

Using data science techniques, DataKind accessed open and internal city data to design several models and tools that enable cities to test the effectiveness of various street safety interventions, estimate total traffic volumes and gain additional insight into crash-related factors.

Learn more about our work with DataKind and Vision Zero:


Launched in 2011, DataKind is a global nonprofit that harnesses the power of data science, AI and machine learning in the service of humanity. Through its core programs – Labs, DataCorps and DataDives – the organization brings together leading data scientists and social sector experts to collaborate on projects to tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges. A leader in the Data for Good movement, DataKind was named one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Nonprofits for 2017. Headquartered in New York City, DataKind has Chapters in Bangalore, Dublin, San Francisco, Singapore, the UK and Washington, D.C. For more information visit


An initiative born in Sweden in the 1990’s, Vision Zero aims to reduce traffic-related deaths and serious injuries to zero. It has been adopted by more than a dozen U.S. cities including New York and Seattle. Vision Zero believes that crashes are predictable and preventable, which means there is great potential for data and technology to help uncover patterns of incidents so governments can take action to prevent fatalities before they occur.

Fellow Profile: Louise Lai

Where are you from? I was born in Malaysia, grew up in Australia, and now live in New York. I also lived in London and Shanghai. Cue the weird accent.

School/grad year/major: Junior at New York University, double majoring in business & political economy and computer science.

Last thing you searched on Bing“How to download Microsoft Azure for Mac”

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? It’s truly a one-of-a-kind program. I chose this over a pure software engineering role because it speaks to my diverse interests in politics, business and computer science. I was in the Microsoft data science summer school last year, and after my project presentation, John Paul Farmer, who I currently work under, came up to me and we started talking about civic tech. The rest is history.

What’s your favorite civic project in the New York? Retrofitting old payphones for WiFi. I like it for its simplicity and what it represents – scrapping the antiquated and moving onto the future.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? Obama. Many people don’t realize this, but he was the first president to bring in a team of techies to rebuild the digital infrastructure of Washington, which is now a permanent part of the U.S. federal government. He also created the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Read this article ‘Obama and his geeks’ and prepare to be impressed.

What excites you about civic tech? The fact that civic tech is just in its infancy excites me. It feels like a startup that is about to take off. Traditionally, government has been resistant to big changes in technology, but now, people are truly seeing the benefit of using big data and cloud services which will only create a brighter future for all.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Creating more efficient and inclusive public engagement.