Wellcome Awards $6.8 Million to Build Data Workforce for Climate and Health

Capacity Accelerators Will Train Purpose-Driven Data Talent in Africa and India

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J-PAL field team members in the Indian state of Haryana participate in training sessions. The IDEA Lab in South Asia builds long-term partnerships with government data providers to strengthen their use of administrative data. Photo credit: J-PAL.

New York, NY | September 21, 2022 — Today, data.org, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia, announced $6.8 million USD in funding from Wellcome in support of the data.org-led Capacity Accelerator Network (CAN). The funding will be split amongst the three partners and aims to foster global data talent for climate and health impact.  

With this grant, data.org will work with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and J-PAL South Asia to establish new accelerators in Sub-Saharan Africa and India. The accelerators will equip emerging data professionals with the interdisciplinary skills needed to work at the intersection of climate and health to tackle society’s greatest challenges and improve lives across the world. 

“Data is crucial for helping us understand and tackle the health effects of climate change. But right now, the field lacks people with the necessary skills and expertise, particularly within the communities that live on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We must train a new generation of data practitioners to address the health impacts of climate change where it matters most. That’s why we’re pleased to support data.org with the accelerators in India and Sub-Saharan Africa — to help bridge gaps in the field and create meaningful solutions that improve lives,” said Tariq Khokhar, head of data for science and health at Wellcome. 

Wellcome’s transformative grant will advance data.org’s ambitious mission to train one million purpose-driven data practitioners over the next decade, as it leads global efforts to strengthen data talent in the social impact sector. This initiative builds on data.org’s recent partnership with the University of Chicago’s Financial Inclusion Accelerator, made possible by funding from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.  

The announcement comes during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and will reinforce efforts to create an enabling environment for equitable, inclusive, and timely policymaking and service delivery in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Underlining the importance of investing in data systems, new Dalberg research—commissioned by the United Nations, The World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data—shows that for every $1 USD invested in data systems and skills, there is $32 USD  worth of benefit.   

“At data.org, we believe in democratizing data, for good. Creating a network of capacity accelerators around the world puts that concept into action, informing, training, and mobilizing the next generation of data professionals,” said Danil Mikhailov, executive director of data.org. “Against a backdrop of the climate crisis, pandemics, and rising inequality, the world faces enormous, systemic challenges. Data science and other data-driven technologies can offer part of the solution through their tremendous ability to scale, but only if we ensure these data professionals are equipped with the interdisciplinary skills to ask the right questions and build trust with the communities they serve.” 

The first capacity accelerator will be based in Sub-Saharan Africa in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), followed by the launch of a second accelerator in India in collaboration with Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia. Both delivery partners have proven experience and deep networks, particularly with local stakeholders in their respective geographies, enabling them to create scalable and sustainable global impact. As a platform for partnerships, data.org has consistently demonstrated its ability to connect partners across the world and foster collaboration that drives collective change. These programs will do the same, resulting in a set of open-source resources, including modular curricula, made available to social impact professionals worldwide. 

“To achieve better outcomes for people and the planet, we as the international data community need to collaborate to make technical skills and knowledge more accessible to all. The Global Partnership is working to help governments address information gaps in climate, health, and vital statistics. Partnering with data.org, J-PAL South Asia, and a constellation of education providers will help collectively leverage our networks to strengthen local data talent, which in turn will help unlock solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges” said Claire Melamed, chief executive officer at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. 

Each accelerator will produce a cohort of data practitioners with interdisciplinary subject-matter expertise in health and climate data. In surrounding communities, dozens of social impact and public sector organizations will reap the benefits, hosting paid data fellows who graduate from the program. 

“The fight against poverty and climate change is more data-driven than ever before, and scalable, rigorous technical training is needed to build capacity to use data for evidence-informed decision-making. The accelerator represents a unique opportunity to build talent and impact the future of data use for research and policy, in India and worldwide, through this collaborative partnership between data.org and J-PAL South Asia,” said Iqbal Dhaliwal, global executive director at J-PAL. 

Accelerators will partner with universities and other social impact and public sector organizations that will support the research and roll out of curriculum, resources, and experiential learning programs, in an effort to engage top talent in social impact—a consistent challenge for the sector. A recent report from data.org and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, “Workforce Wanted: Data Talent for Social Impact,” found that there is an opportunity to develop 3.5 million data professionals focused on social impact in low- and middle-income countries over the next 10 years. 

“No one can do this work alone, but together, we can build a diverse workforce of purpose-driven data practitioners, advancing social impact. We invite funders, social impact organizations, academia, and government to join us,” added Mikhailov. 

About Wellcome 

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases. 

About Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL): 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Anchored by a network of 262 affiliated professors at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty. 

About The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD): 

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data is a fast-growing, dynamic international partnership bringing together over 650 different organizations including governments, UN agencies, private companies, civil society organizations, and many others. The Global Partnership convenes, connects, and catalyzes action to address the problems of poor data use, access, quality, and production, and to work with stakeholders to fully harness the new opportunities of the data revolution in the service of sustainable development. The Global Partnership aims to link and align action, capacities, and resources across geographies, sectors, and data communities. 

About data.org: 

data.org is committed to democratizing data, for good. Founded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, data.org is a platform for partnerships, and works with organizations all over the world to increase the use of data science to tackle society’s most pressing challenges and improve the lives of millions of people. For more information, visit data.org and follow us on Twitter @datadotorg. 

Media contacts: 

Emma Marty | emma@data.org 

Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data:
Jennifer Oldfield | joldfield@data4sdgs.org  

Evan Williams | ewilliams@povertyactionlab.org