Data analytics techniques like predictive risk modeling offer incredible opportunities to learn from rich data sets. Whatever service or product you are ‘selling’, whoever you are serving, data analytics offers the chance to connect with the right person in the right way at the right time. But while the private sector has been quick to realise the benefits of analytics, the public sector, besieged as it is with intractable and ‘wicked’ problems, has so far been the tortoise. So why isn’t the public sector keeping up? Despite best intentions, many organisations that have tried to use data analytics for good have delivered cautionary tales rather than inspiring case studies. The failures often stem from inadequate considerations of elements including ethics, transparency, fairness, racial disparities and social license. There is an emerging set of ground rules about what the community deems acceptable uses of data analytics for social good. Rhema will share a short history of data analytics for social good, talk about the emerging ‘rules of engagement’ and share her own experiences in implementing the Allegheny Family Screening Tool – a child welfare decision support tool – in Allegheny County, PA (United States).

About John Western Memorial Lecture

The John Western Memorial Lecture is a biennial public lecture jointly sponsored by the Institute for Social Science Research and the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland to commemorate John Western’s contribution to the social sciences.

The late Emeritus Professor John Western became the first professor of sociology at UQ and Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in 1970. Some 26 years later, John retired but continued to be an active researcher, writer and doctoral supervisor. He was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 1984, and was elected to the Swiss Academy of Development in 1989. In 2009, John’s dedication to tertiary education and more specifically the development of sociology nationally and internationally was recognised when he became a member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia. John Western passed away on 6 January 2011. 


Customs House, 399 Queens Street, QLD 4000
Long Room