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Paulo Maia challenges us to use data to contribute to a more inclusive society

The most recent session of the City Café, an initiative of Porto City Council organised by the Porto Innovation Hub, focused on “Data and Inclusive Innovation”, with the participation of speaker Paulo Maia, who awakened the audience to important reflections on the role of data in social transformation.

Paulo Maia, who has a degree in bioengineering from FEUP, is lead data scientist at NILG.AI, dedicated to strategic support and development in artificial intelligence. He is also an active volunteer in the Data Science for Social Good Portugal project, where his passion for data is combined with his desire to generate a positive impact on society.

Shaping inclusive innovation

Paulo Maia shared his experiences of innovative projects aimed at social inclusion, outlining the practical approach that usually characterises these processes, from understanding the needs of partner organisations to delivering and evaluating projects. Among the main challenges of this activity, the speaker highlighted the challenge of recruiting volunteers, since people’s availability is often limited, and the need to constantly evaluate the impact of efforts.
In the world of the third sector, data projects play a crucial role. Paulo Maia explored various categories, from analysis and reporting to testing and modelling, exemplifying with concrete projects. A pilot project with Rotaract Santo Tirso, analysing fundraising data, and collaboration with the CAIS Association to demystify stigmas were highlighted as emblematic cases.
Automation, as a tool for optimising processes, was also discussed. A practical example was the optimisation of the preparation of Fruta Feia’s weekly baskets, highlighting the effectiveness of simple solutions such as the use of Google documents (spreadsheets). The guest also shared a recent project in collaboration with Lisbon City Council, in which open data and artificial intelligence were used to improve urban accessibility, especially for people with reduced mobility, specifically people who use wheelchairs.


But where is the data?

Paulo Maia took the opportunity to point out the places where you can find data for innovative projects. From open data platforms such as and Porto City Council itself (and portals of other municipalities), to direct contact with associations and data generation, they all represent ways of collecting data and contributing to the community.

This City Café session took the time to reveal the significant advances in data and inclusive innovation in Portugal, but it also brought a breath of fresh air to those present and a challenge to risk exploring new frontiers. With Paulo Maia as their guide, the journey towards a more inclusive and innovative society gained powerful momentum, steering Porto (and beyond) towards a future in which data is the key to unlocking concrete solutions to social challenges.

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