Data for Good

3 November 2021
Sara Hooker ’13

The child of Irish parents who served as teachers in remote African villages, Sara Hooker ’13 saw scarcity firsthand. It shaped her worldview and burning desire to help others as she completed dual majors in economics and international relations.

After graduating from Carleton, Hooker consulted her economists in the San Francisco area and contemplated earning a doctorate in the field. As she discovered the power of data science though, her path veered and she self-trained in coding and research. With a bit of luck and pluck, she entered the world of machine learning before joining the research team at Google Brain. 

Hooker’s desire to give back still burns bright. In 2014 she cofounded a nonprofit organization to help under-resourced organizations in the United States and around the globe bridge the so-called “technical divide.” The group, Delta Analytics, now boasts 100 volunteer engineers who provide free consulting and technical education.

“We build up [organizations’] technical capacity by providing free training that helps democratize access to data tools,” Hooker explains. “Then we hand it off and it continues onward.”

In Brazil, Delta Analytics helped the nonprofit Rainforest Connection stop illegal logging by turning recycled cell phones into discreet acoustic monitoring devices that can pick-up industrial sounds (chainsaws, trucks) and send an alert to authorities. “Having a way to glean and understand the collected data is the key,” Hooker says. Other projects include an app that helps connect refugees with volunteer translators and a database that tracks human trafficking.

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