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Delaware Data Innovation Lab’s merger with Tech Impact brings new opportunities in 2022

The growing data science org finished last year with a focus on healthcare, rental assistance and greenways.

The Markell Trail was among the subjects of data analysis at DDIL in 2021.

(Photo by Holly Quinn)

New year, new partnerships.

Tech Impact acquired the year-old Delaware Data Innovation Lab (DDIL) in October 2021, with the merger completed the night of the ribbon cutting at its first permanent Delaware location on the Riverfront.

If you’re mainly familiar with Tech Impact as a workforce development organization — its tuition-free coding school, IT Works, has been serving underemployed people in Greater Philadelphia for a decade — it might seem like a strange fit to merge.

But IT Works is just one part of what Tech Impact does. Another is tech consulting, and that’s where it and DDIL have a symbiotic relationship.

“Tech Impact’s consultancy program is great, and it works out really nicely because where the work that that consultancy ends is where we can pick it up,” Ryan Harrington, DDIL associate director of strategy and operations, told Technical.ly. “They do a lot of workthrough things, like building dashboards and helping nonprofits wrap their hands around data, and we pick it up at, ‘Great, you have your data in order, now time to do some more advanced things with it.'”

That’s the relationship that they plan to grow into as they head into 2022, with DDIL building relationships with organizations that Tech Impact is connected to nationally, expanding its reach and work.

DDIL associate directors Héctor Maldonado-Reis and Ryan Harrington,

Delaware Data Innovation Lab’s Héctor Maldonado-Reis and Ryan Harrington. (Courtesy photo)

The merger happened less than a year after DDIL was formed after data science company CompassRed received a $2 million New Castle County CARES Act grant. The organization was always intended to become independent of CompassRed, as its CEO, Patrick Callahan (not to be confused with Tech Impact Executive Director Patrick Callihan), told us in late 2020. The organization started with six projects, all focusing on the impact of COVID-19 in different sectors, from higher education to hospitality to housing.

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DDIL, which recently brought on a fourth fellow, Nami Sunami, finished 2021 completing multiple NCC CARES Act-funded projects, all for state agencies:

  • A partnership with the Delaware State Housing Authority to help target emergency rental assistance to communities that were in most need of that funding, soon to go into beta testing — “It sounds like it should be a relatively straightforward task, but it’s not quite as simple as just sorting by how much a community has,” Harrington said. “There has to be a little bit more science, a little bit more understanding of what communities are most in need. Ultimately it ended with building them a tool where they can put in data that they have and it outputs what they should prioritize.”
  • Two projects with the Delaware Health Information Network, both exploring local communities to discover the the most prevalent diseases impacting them and what resources are needed to treat those diseases in those places — “They were particularly dialed in on chronic diseases — diabetes for example — and there was also a large look at telehealth and what impacted it in terms of year over year changes,” Harrington said. “It took a lot of community partners to make that happen.”
  • A partnership with the Delaware Department of Transportation that aims to improve Delaware’s greenways — “The idea being, people are going outside more during COVID, so we need to get a better understanding of how are they are using outdoor spaces,” Harrington said. “DelDOT has authority over the trail system in Delaware, so we took a deep dive in looking at the Jack Markell Trail, basically understanding what changes might need to be made in the area surrounding the trail and the trail itself to encourage more people to utilize it.”

Post-merger, Harrington says that the org is more poised than ever to take it to the next level.

“We now have a marketing team, we have an accounting team, there’s a grant writing team,” he said. “That is a very meaningful change.”

The Delaware Data Innovation Lab team will be doing an AMA on Technical.ly’s public Slack on Thursday, Jan. 13, at noon. Join the convo to meet the fellows, learn about the projects and ask them anything about data science:

Join the Technical.ly Slack -30-
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