As more data centres are built to power the city-state’s digital transformation, the design of these high-tech boxes become ever more important.
What do “The Internet” and “The Cloud” look like to you? Even a Google search turns up nothing more than diagrams of seemingly invisible networks that connect the world’s computers, phones and devices. Well, stop looking up and start looking around, because the world wide web exists in plain sight across Singapore. Inside buildings known as “data centres” are the racks of computers that form part of the network which we increasingly depend on in our everyday lives.
They are alongside motorists as they travel down the Ayer-Rajah Expressway—between the flyovers at Buona Vista and Portsdown. One is a neighbour to residents living in the public housing blocks along Serangoon North Avenue 5. Another greets students across the road from Corporation Primary School. These data centres are where information is collected, stored, processed, distributed and accessed, and they are all part of a web of similar facilities connected around the world via fibre cable and satellite.
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.”