Yanhong (Billy) Zhao

I would like to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of the refugees/internally displaced people all over the world.

Fact file

  • Bachelor/Master of Information and Computing Engineering at University of Cambridge.
  • Working on clean energy (wind farm siting with ML, solar capacity prediction with ML), Chatbots for Good (Chatbots for domestic violence, sexual reproductive health), COVID-19 Epidemiology Modelling (for Refugee camps).
  • Starting a full-time position of Data Scientist at Education First in the coming September in London.
  • 2020 DSSG Summer project group: World Bank.

What is a social cause you care about deeply?

Reducing the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of the refugees/internally displaced people all over the world.

Traditional interventions like quarantine and social distancing wouldn’t work in a lot of camps which are cramped and suffering from terrible hygiene conditions. In April, I organised a team from the community AI for Good London to participate in the Hack from Home Hackathon from which we won a kick-starter grant for our project. Since then we have had 30+ international volunteers of all disciplines (epidemiologists, data scientists, software engineers, NGO workers) joining the team in collaboration with volunteers from Deutsch Bank’s AI function.

The project aims to provide a useful tool for the frontline humanitarian organisations to make informed decisions on which interventions will localise well within the camps that they are working in by querying camp-specific epidemiology models. The projected number of infections from the models can also help with supply chain management (like masks, food etc.) We are currently working with two partners in two camps, one called Moria in Greece and the other called Hamam-al-Alil in Iraq and we hope to expand to more areas soon in the months to come. If you want to find out more about this project and potentially contribute, please check out our website (www.aiforgoodsimulator.com).

What have you found the most interesting so far when working with World Bank?

The partners made it clear to us the tools and methodologies derived from this project has the potential to scale to many different countries to promote the best practices in preventing corrupted activities in the public sector. This motivated us through the laborious data cleaning work in the starting weeks.

The project is structured and well organised even though we are working from home across three different time zones.We have developed a steady cadence via our weekly scrums and the weekly partner call to quickly iterate on tooling, validate findings and seek new directions from the subject experts on the partner side. It is my first time to truly collaborate with six other data scientists (technical mentors included) and we all complement each other with different set of knowledge of machine learning.

Through the project, I am also learning a ton from my peers and hanging out with a cool bunch of people who really care about the causes we are trying to advance

When you're not working, what can you be found doing?

When I am in London, I usually go bouldering with my friends (a very techie thing to do these days), play pick-up basketball games in East London, and go on weekend hikes around the country with my girlfriend’s dog! You can also spot me geeking out with other data scientists in two of my favourite AI communities in London: AI for Good London and DataKind UK.

What skills have you gained so far on the DSSGx summer project programme and working with World Bank?

I am going to enumerate a few here: software engineering best practices (scrum, git, code style), rapid note taking during meetings, network analysis, working with other data scientists efficiently, knowledge on corruption in the public sector.

What blog, podcast or book does everyone need to be aware of?

One newsletter I will recommend is from deeplearning.ai which offers bite-size information every week on the latest development on AI with concise summary of the relevant papers.

More books on unpacking personal bias: Why I No Longer Talk to White People about Racism (Reni eddo-Lodge) and Girl, Woman, Other (by Bernardine Evaristo.

A really good online course from The University of Edinburgh called Data Ethics, AI and Responsible Innovation which can be found on Edx. This is the most informative course I have taken so far on data ethics which has shifted my perspective on this.

What would be your dream industry/ sector to work in? How do you think your involvement in the DSSG could help you get there?

To work for a company that is applying AI for Social Good purposes as I am interested in applying AI to advance a whole range of causes. DSSG gives me first hand experiences on how to build a system from scratch working with leading subject expert in the field and leveraging the influence of one of the largest development banks in the world and this is the type of work I want to keep on doing either full-time or part-time in the future.