What do we need to carry out work today? A table, a chair, and for many of us, some kind of electronic device. Whether it is preparing documents, organising schedules or even meeting colleagues, ‘work’ is mostly done through interactions with machines – ranging from the photocopier to the computer to the smartphone.
Yet, conversations revolving around the design of work environments are largely stuck on the physical work space. Even as designers update office furniture and rearrange layouts toward new definitions of ‘ergonomic’ and ‘productivity’, the virtual office where workers spend their time tapping, clicking and typing away – often in silent frustration – is regarded as the domain of the IT department.
Before we all had smartphones in our pockets, some of us had a PDA. The Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) may no longer elicit any public displays of affection, but this handheld device was a trailblazer in the nineties and noughties. Designed for managing appointments, sending emails and even reading handwriting, PDAs emerged from the convergence of telecommunications and information technology, foreshadowing the world of tablets and smartphones that we live in today.
What has proximity to the public holidays and the Central Business District got to do with a blood donation drive? Turns out they impact how many people show up for blood donation drives.
This insight was one of several the Singapore Red Cross learned thanks to DataKind Singapore (DataKind SG). Since 2014, this voluntary group of data scientists, developers and designers have been using data to help the social service sector in Singapore get better at doing good.
The Red Cross was just one beneficiary of the group’s recent “DataDive” in April. Over 70 volunteers spent their weekend huddled in an office crunching data to help the Singapore Children’s Society learn about how professionals and the public perceive child abuse, and also supported O’Joy Care Services in measuring the performance of its mental health programme for seniors.
“Non-profits are often struggling with operational issues. They don’t really have time to step back and see what’s happening,” says Raymond Chan, who leads the Singapore chapter of this global organisation headquartered in New York. “We will try to help them see the bigger picture using data.”