From traffic to disease outbreaks: How AIM’s data scientists hope to improve Filipinos’ lives

Aya Cariño-valdez
From traffic to disease outbreaks: How AIM’s data scientists hope to improve Filipinos’ lives


Data scientists from the Asian Institute of Management envision to use advanced analytics in interests that span from traffic research, health, intellectual property, to local applications like predicting the water level of Magat Dam

MANILA, Philippines – When people think of data science, they typically think of how number crunching can help businesses make better decisions, improve processes, reduce costs, and make profits.

Some of the students of the Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM) Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) Batch 2020 are challenging that view, aiming to use data science and artificial intelligence in the academe, the government, and, in general, to help solve society’s problems.

They envision to use advanced analytics in interests that span from traffic research, health, intellectual property (IP), to local applications like predicting the water level of Magat Dam in northern Luzon.

Get to know some of the new students of MSDS Batch 2020.

Tina Bargo is an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman-Institute of Mathematics and a researcher for the Department of Science and Technology-funded AGUS project, which was created to find solutions to traffic. In AGUS, videos are analyzed to determine the volume and type of passing vehicles and pedestrians. This information is used to generate simulations and find optimal solutions to ease heavy traffic flow.

“I decided to take a deep dive into data science because it’s crucial. Our leaders are making decisions based on gut feel. This shouldn’t be the case. I saw that the data science program of AIM doesn’t only tackle the science behind it, but also how to communicate these ideas and solutions with decision-makers and policy makers – a skill which is severely lacking for most researchers,” Bargo said. 

Jomilynn Rebanal of the Department of Health’s (DOH) Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service is sponsored by the World Health Organization. She enrolled in the program to help the DOH establish its data warehouse.

“The DOH has the challenge of maintaining various data sources and transforming the data into effective action. We need to have all this data in one warehouse so that it can be easily accessed and used by health program managers and decision makers. With the Universal Health Care Law, the challenge for the DOH is to be more responsive to the needs of the people. We can do this by maximizing data science and artificial intelligence to foresee these needs,” Rebanal explained.

She added: “For example, for future disease outbreaks, we could use data science to predict where the outbreak might hit next, and we can prepare and place precautionary measures to prevent its spread. With the data warehouse, there will be faster transmission, organization, and analysis of data.”

Elmer Robles is a Software Architect from UC Berkeley who wants to infuse the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines with new technologies. He wants to use technologies like blockchain technology, smart contracts, and new standards in identifying ownership of property, which haven’t been integrated yet in any other intellectual property office in the world.

“Intellectual property is a community’s most important asset. Innovation allows a community to convert natural and intellectual resources into financial and social wealth. When you create music, when you paint, or when you write a book, the market outside the Philippines is huge,” Robles shared. 

“We have natural brand ambassadors, Filipinos are everywhere in the world. As they promote our products, whether its books or film or dancing or styles, we need to monetize that. It is important to harmonize IP systems of different countries and standardize ownership to facilitate licensing of IP and the global collection of royalties. Freddie Aguilar’s ‘Anak’ has been translated into 26 languages and still has unclaimed royalties around the world,” he added.

Gem Gloria is an Actuarial Analyst who was born and raised in Cauayan, Isabela. Her program is being sponsored by the Cauayan City government. She has some ideas about how data science can help their city.

“We have a dam in our province, the Magat Dam. My father is an engineer who works for its maintenance. He always has phone calls about the water level of the dam because if it reaches a certain height, the neighboring areas can get flooded. This system might be too slow during critical times but if we make a model that can predict the water level, this information can be relayed to stakeholders earlier. If given a chance to serve in the city government, I would love to stay and improve our city,” Gloria said. 

Cauayan City Mayor Bernard Faustino Dy shared how investing in Gem and the MSDS program fits into his vision for a smart city.

“With all these technologies available, I would like to see Cauayan have less human intervention in transactions. I would like our citizens to be able to make data-driven decisions, like our farmers knowing when it’s the right time to plant and what kind of crop. As simple as, if it’s going to rain or not – should I put all my harvest out to dry? These are simple things that are very important to people’s lives,” he said. 

Dy added: “Investing in Gem and data science is a no brainer. I know it can make a positive change in our city. We embrace technology and innovation. What we want to prove is if we can do it in Cauayan, which is a small city located in a rural area, then there is no reason for the rest of the cities in our country not to do it.”

The hopes and dreams of both the students and sponsors of the MSDS Batch 2020 reflect their strong determination to use data science to improve our nation. They are investing in acquiring skills that can help them improve the lives of their communities. –

Aya Cariño-Valdez is the technology and business writer of the Asian Institute of Management’s Analytics, Computing, and Complex Systems (ACCeSs@AIM) laboratory. Using her scientific training and advocacy experience, she translates scientific research into stories that people can relate to. 

If you are interested in knowing how data science can be applied in your areas of work, feel free to reach out to ACCeSs@AIM laboratory (email ACCeSs@AIM has full time data scientists who are more than welcome to answer your questions. 

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