Victor Hinardi, MPP Class of 2023 and DPSS'20, writes about the ways in which data can be used to tell stories that impact policy change.

Data is invaluable in the policy world: it can be used to visualize everything from neighborhood density to  political landscapes. Applying concepts of statistics, such as modeling and correlations, into programming can be a powerful tool to understand and eventually make data-driven policies.

The main reason I enrolled as an MPP student at The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy was because I realized how important data is in shaping policy and the economy. I am interested in understanding the application of economics to solve public sector problems, and with the use of machine learning, I have learned to better understand how central banks work in the US—knowledge I hope to apply to my home country of Indonesia.

 At Harris, I have been honing my data analytics skills by taking classes such as Data and Programming for Public Policy as well as Machine Learning. I have learned two programming languages—R and Python—both of which enable me to analyze public sector problems in a deeper manner.

The first data project that I did during the Data and Policy Summer Scholar program as a capstone project was to visualize the rebellion territorial control in Afghanistan using the R program. Below is an example of the map.

Survey from Victor's DPSS Capstone


From this experience, I have learned for the first time about data visualization, which is a very powerful tool to shed light on a  problem. I further honed my coding skills as an MPP student due to numerous projects assigned as a data analytics focused student at Harris.

A project that I did as an MPP student was to develop a scatter plot to see a relationship between student performance and their future income which is very interesting to me.

Scatterplot from Victor's capstone

For this project, I used Python to visualize the data set. As a Harris student concentrating on data analytics, I am expected to be able to tell a story to visualize data in a clear way. I have had a lot of support during my time as a student since the Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Professor were instrumental in my development.

In the future, I wish to create a think tank in Indonesia that focuses on the relationship between Indonesia, China, and the US. The programming skills I have gained at Harris will be useful when applying to jobs and ultimately being able to visualize problems in different public sectors in Indonesia to create data-driven policy.