Data Science for the Public Good Distinguished Speaker Series: Seema Iyer

Event Details

Thursday, June 1, 2023
4:00pm-6:00pm Eastern Time (ET)

Event location details:
Biocomplexity Institute
1100 Wilson Blvd. Suite 2910
Arlington, VA 22209

Missed the event? Access the recording of the talk and the slide deck here.

Seema Iyer headshot

Strengthening the Refugee-Supporting Ecosystem by Focusing on the "Public" within Data Science for Public Good

Abstract: Involuntary human migration is accelerating due to changes in worldwide demographics, political upheavals, economic dislocation, technological advances, and climate change. By June 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that global forced displacement reached 103 million displaced persons — this includes, refugees, internally displaced, asylum seekers, and stateless persons. To assist with growing needs, an ecosystem of international humanitarian organizations around the world including UNHCR work to provide immediate humanitarian response, legal protections, food access, local integration, education, and livelihoods training. Innovations in data and technology can unlock insights and solutions for global displacement challenges, helping improve humanitarian interventions and connect services to the people who need them most. The question is how to make these kinds of connections between technology and data science capabilities for refugees with immediate needs in a way that is more proactive. The Hive, USA for UNHCR’s innovation lab, is taking an "embeddedness" approach to address this issue by developing mutual interdependencies within the refugee-supporting ecosystem which strengthens everyone's ability to meet the needs of refugees directly. Come learn more about this approach for technology and data science innovation and hear about lessons learned locally that have led to long-term sustainability.

Bio: Seema Iyer is the Senior Director of The Hive, USA for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) innovation lab. The Hive's mission is to engage with the American public to raise awareness about refugees and design solutions that address the needs of refugees through technology and the data science process. Before serving as senior director of The Hive, Dr. Iyer was the city of Baltimore’s Director of Research for the City Department of Planning from 2005-2011. Dr. Iyer became Director of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) at the University of Baltimore’s (UB) Jacob France Institute in 2011. In her role as director of BNIA, Dr. Iyer advanced the Institute's vision to achieve their goal to "strengthen Baltimore neighborhoods by providing meaningful, accurate, and open data at the community level” until her transition to senior director of The Hive in 2022.

For the past 18 years, Dr. Iyer has developed her data science skills to understand neighborhood change in urban areas like Baltimore. In 2016, she spearheaded Baltimore’s efforts to localize the newly-adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in 2017 became a Fulbright-Nehru scholar to better understand how growing cities in India are using SDGs to further economic competitiveness. She has authored and co-edited a number of publications regarding the SDGs, smart technology, community-based indicators and urban migration patterns informing data-driven decision-making. Her 2013 TEDxBaltimore talk, “How Baltimore Grows”, has led to more than a decade of research on how neighborhood fortunes and opportunities have been diverging economically, socially, and culturally in Baltimore.

Dr. Iyer is the recipient of the 2020 Dean’s Award for Public Service and the 2021 University System of Maryland Regents Award for Excellence in Public Service. She was named a Baltimore Gamechanger in 2021 by Baltimore Magazine. Dr. Iyer has a doctoral degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan.

The talk is from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm, which includes Q&A and is followed by a reception from 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm.

Event Zoom Access