Data initiative looking on the Bright side of life
The automation of public web data for commercial use has become a thriving business for Israeli-based Bright Data, which boasts 15,000 global customers across the fields of ecommerce, finance, marketing and security.
The collection of huge tranches of online data, from sources such as social media, websites, and other apps (although nothing behind a pay wall or a private account) is commonly used by firms as a comparison tool, to check out how rivals are performing.
It’s also used for academic research purposes: data that can take weeks or months to collate manually can be automated in minutes using a Bright Data- engineered ‘collector’, according to the company’s CEO and founder Or Lenchner.
During the last eight years Lenchner has built up his firm (formerly known as Luminati until a rebrand last year) to become one of the main web data platforms on the market, with over 300 employees and products spanning a multitude of industries.
But it was only after the onset of Covid-19 that the tech entrepreneur began to understand the social impact his tools could have on the public sector, in medicine, with NGOs, charities and policy and environmental organisations.
During this period the firm was invited to work with a group of scientists and AWS Israel on a taskforce, Sprint Covid-19, which aimed to find ways to better diagnose this new disease.
“In those early days of the pandemic, it was critical to get ahead of rapid developments, and any kind of information helped. This taskforce looked for out-of-the-box ways to achieve early Covid detection,” Lenchner explains.
“As a CEO, I obviously wanted Bright Data to help as quickly as we possibly could. I took two engineers and provided the web data needed in less than 24 hours. That data helped find ways for remote diagnosis and is part of the medical protocols here in Israel,” he adds.
Other projects soon followed. In the US David Newell, the creator of vaccine appointment tracker FindAShot.org, used Bright Data’s tech to obtain each individual US pharmacy’s booking systems and merge them into one streamlined search.
After further enquiries, Lenchner made the decision to offer up his firm’s tech pro-bono to any organization trying to facilitate social change and spin it into a separate company, The Bright Initiative, which remains free from business considerations like P&L or growth.
“Our mission is to drive positive change in the world,” says The Bright Initiative’s general manager, Keren Pakes.
“Whether its environmental change, social change or even health care and wellbeing. We want to drive things forward with the help of web data,” she adds.
According to Pakes, The Bright initiative now has 366 partners including universities in more than 140 cities, and partners can draw on Bright Data’s technology as well as 24/7 support of a six-strong team that includes two dedicated engineers.
Pakes adds that each prospective company is required to go through the same compliance and ethics processes as Bright Data’s commercial clients and use cases are also carefully examined to ensure that they match the initiative’s goals.
Given that most of Bright Data’s commercial clients use automated web gathering tools for comparison purposes, the initiative’s ‘data-for-good’ use cases are more varied.
One example sees data being used to combat human trafficking through US-based organization Human Trafficking Initiative Lab’s project. HTI uses online commercial sex advertisements, data science, and network analysis to identify potential trafficking networks within the commercial sex industry.
Using Bright Data’s technology through the initiative, HTI was able to collect data from public online ads and predict trafficking risk – pushing high-risk cases to law enforcement partners.
Diversity hiring outfit Mathison, whose clients include Hello Fresh, Trip Advisor and Sonos, has also used the initiative’s tech to power its streamlined diversity recruitment and monitoring system by pulling in info on potential candidates from an array of online talent networks and LinkedIn pages.
Mathison CEO Dave Walsh adds that as demand for his service has grown, the initiative has become a valuable partner in helping the firm meet its growing demands.
“Without their technology we’d be forced to build and maintain datasets manually every time we partner with a new company, which would take time and resources away from our team’s ultimate goal of matching underrepresented talent with their dream jobs,” he says.
The Bright Initiative is also using its data prowess to support climate change efforts, recently partnering with Subak, a non-profit accelerator that scales climate impact through data, policy, and behaviour change.
Dan Travers, Subak’s head of data science, partnerships, and execution, explains that member organisations like New AutoMotive are using the data to support the switch to electric vehicles, and are using Bright Initiative’s technology to understand the public sentiment on electric vehicles over time, and to monitor the prices of charging cables.
“This will help inform why some areas have lower uptake of electric cars than others and allow New AutoMotive to focus their efforts,” Travers explains. “These types of insights, the support, and expertise from Bright Data will be invaluable to all Subak members in their work to tackle the climate crisis,” he adds.
While Bright Data has always steered clear of polling and political campaigning, it is working with the UK Government and its stakeholders to find ways of unlocking of data value across the economy.
Lenchner is working with the Department of Culture Media and Sport on its National Data Strategy, which also aims to support skills development in the area of data science.
Pakes adds that the initiative is also working towards its own goals in advancing and upscaling data skills globally. It currently runs at free data science course at Manchester Metropolitan University as part of its Rise programme for students on business or tech related courses.
Next month will also see the launch of the initiative’s Bright Academy – which will offer data science courses that will be free for students, graduates, NGOs, entrepreneurs, and tech-for-good firms.
Separate to the above, there are also two grants in the pipeline says Pakes, one of which will be used to fund a data research project.
Lenchner is funding and supporting the The Bright Initiative through Bright Data, which remains a commercial company focused on anticipating future web data needs.
For him, the success of the initiative will be measured by impact. “It is probably good for business as well, but it can never be measured by dollars or pounds – just by the positive change it helps drive. This is the organization’s mission, and I think this is why it is, today, home to over 350 impressive ‘doing good’ partners,” he says.
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