In the past year, my colleagues Paul Decker and Akira Bell have written about Mathematica’s journey blending traditional social science research with data science while prioritizing data privacy, ethics, and security. Embedding digital experts, digital processes, and digital technology in every corner of our organization, commonly described as digital transformation, presents the same sort of challenges that any institution faces when enacting cultural or systematic change. As part of the leadership team overseeing Mathematica’s digital transformation, I’ve come to realize that we’re lucky. For us, digital transformation is a logical step in our natural progression as a company, not a dramatic turn in a new direction.
Science and technology have always been central to Mathematica’s culture and mission. From the beginning, the company’s founders sought to use innovative approaches, such as the application of game theory, decision theory, and computer programming, to answer pressing questions about complex issues. As technology has advanced, so has our ability to use newly available computational power to uncover insights from a sea of data, visualize information in innovative ways, and move the needle on equity. Today, we are combining decades of experience with health data and social programs with a digital-first approach to analytics.
Moving from legacy systems to the cloud has been critical to providing timely and relevant evidence to our partners, which include decision makers in the public and private sectors, in the nation’s capital, and in communities across the country. The cloud enables us to store, curate, analyze, visualize, and disseminate data at a speed and scale essential for real-time and predictive analytics. It helps us provide better information to decision makers sooner in their decision-making process. Through cloud computing, we’re able to shift from trying to solve one problem for one partner to begin to look at solutions at scale.
Today, Mathematica is using cloud-based, open-source, and mobile technology to make interactive resources the norm. One recent example is the latest Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Scorecard. Mathematica created this online dashboard for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to increase public transparency for the programs’ administration and outcomes. Visitors can view the latest data on a range of measures, such as how states compare on the percentage of adolescent residents who have received recommended immunizations by their 13th birthday, or the percentage of women ages 50 to 74 screened for breast cancer, or the percentage of infants with a low birth weight.
Perhaps the best illustration of what our digital transformation means in practice is the way Mathematica has supported partners in their responses to the COVID-19 crisis. For example, agent-based modeling helped administrators at the University of California San Diego and state leaders in Pennsylvania’s public schools predict disease spread under a range of conditions to inform operating and closure strategies. Wastewater testing in North Carolina is helping detect early trends in COVID-19 infections. And custom COVID-19 dashboards are helping schools capture and synthesize data from multiple sources to identify learning-loss hot spots and provide education administrators with essential information to plan effective operations.
We’re just getting started, and these examples only scratch the surface of what’s possible when you combine Mathematica’s expertise in people, policies, and programs; our in-depth knowledge of the value and limits of available data; and our digital-technology capabilities.
As we transform our approach to put digital solutions front and center, we’ll continue to advance the speed, scale, and complexity of our work, enabling us and our partners to maximize our collective impact on public well-being.