AUA Faculty Members Discuss the Role of Data Science in Political Campaigns

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YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On December 4, 2018, Artur Khalatyan, lecturer at the Akian College of Science & Engineering (CSE) of American University of Armenia (AUA), and Habet Madoyan, Chair of the newly opened AUA CSE undergraduate degree program in Data Science, participated in a discussion titled “The Role of Data Science in Political Campaigns: Armenian Realities” at the Article 3 Club. As a field that has become inescapable worldwide in the 21st century, it is becoming more and more important for Armenia to have discourse on the topic.

Over the past decade, the widespread use of digital technology has accumulated enormous amounts of data in the world. According to the well-known Forbes magazine, more data was generated in 2013-2015 than throughout human history. Such extensive and diverse data creates unprecedented opportunities for analysis by different sectors, such as business, industry, security, public administration, and others.

The most common and possibly the most scandalous cases of use of artificial intelligence are related to election campaigns. Barack Obama’s 2013 presidential election campaign is a vivid example of the victory which took place as a result of the analysis of individual voter behavior and ensuing targeted propaganda. Recently, Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis company, has been involved in political campaigns such as Donald Trump’s election campaign and Britain’s campaign to exit the European Union (EU), both with victorious culminations.

During the discussion many important aspects of the topic were voiced. The speakers addressed a variety of questions, such as what the source of information is, what types of analysis are conducted, what opportunities data create in the political context, what risks there are for society, how well data are used in the political field, and how this is regulated by law.

“Data Science or Big Data and all adjacent tools and technologies allow political parties to get a better understanding of the issues that various demographic, professional and socioeconomic groups face. These capabilities, if used correctly, can greatly increase the political parties’ understanding of the issues and help them to develop programs that respond to the more specific issues and needs of society. Equipped with data technologies and tools, the political parties need to establish and maintain close communication and develop relations with various interest groups. I believe data can change the current situation, where political parties do most of their research during pre-election campaigns, from which they draw policy priorities and programs that guide their work throughout the parliamentary term,” noted Khalatyan.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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