Coding for social good
In conjunction with its 10th anniversary, the NUS Computing for Voluntary Welfare Organisations (CVWO) initiative presented a mobile application on 9 November that will help the Lions Befrienders Service Association (LBSA) use data analytics to more effectively reach out to seniors at risk of social isolation.
Founded in 2007 by NUS Computing Associate Professor Ben Leong, the regularly oversubscribed CVWO initiative matches the computer programming skills of undergraduates to the needs of partner voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), while providing the students with a unique learning experience beyond the classroom. Each year, 10 to 14 students of the School spend three full months helping to computerise work processes that would allow the VWOs and social workers to better serve the community by redirecting their time and resources to tasks that directly impact their beneficiaries.
Over the years, some 125 students have assisted VWOs such as LBSA, Care Corner Seniors Activity Centres, YMCA Singapore, Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, Geylang East Home for the Aged and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society in developing tailored and robust IT systems to improve their work processes. Many of these students have gone on to work for top technology firms such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
The new mobile application for LBSA builds on an earlier web-based system designed for the VWO in 2010 by past NUS Computing students to replace the use of excel spreadsheets in the tracking of their daily operations. A new feature of the mobile application is the ability to easily monitor the moods and mental states of the elderly in order to identify high-risk clients for early intervention. The data can also be analysed on a larger scale to assess the impact of LBSA’s policies and activities.
Said Year 3 NUS Computing student Yuan Yuchuan, Team Lead and former President of CVWO, “Our new feature is already benefitting the befrienders, allowing them to better take care of the seniors under their charge. Information on the site is also visible to all the staff and managers, alerting them to the need to keep an eye on certain groups which have problems or are not adequately taken care of, and allowing them to take steps to rectify this.”
A dialogue session was also held during the celebratory event, where Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin spoke about building a more inclusive society through long-term partnerships with beneficiaries and needs-driven projects, and how students can use their talents to serve the community. Mr Tan highlighted how altruism benefits the giver just as much as the recipient.
“I think in the process of reaching out to others, where there is an element of sacrifice of time, where you commit part of your life to the life of others, I think there is a change that begins to happen…At some point, a tipping point is reached and I think society will start to transform into a very different society,” said Mr Tan.
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