tweede kamer hackathon

Tweede Kamer Hackathon: Medicine Price Comparison

On the 4th of October, a team of Anchormen Accelerators participated in a Hackathon prepared by the Tweede Kamer, Ministerie van BZK, Ministerie van Financiën, the CBS, Algemene Rekenkamer, and the Open State Foundation.

 

The Accountability initiative, aptly named by the organizers, challenged teams of developers, data scientists, and data analysts to use open source government data and build a solution as an answer to growing challenges in Education and Health care.

A real-life, practical assignment like this is a great learning opportunity for this year’s Accelerator trainees, so we sent a team to participate in the Hackathon. Four Junior Machine Learning Engineers and one Senior Anchormen Data Scientist set off early in the morning towards The Hague, ready to activate some data.

Out of the two available challenges to choose from, our team focused on comparing medication prices in several Western European countries. It’s important for patients to have access to affordable medication, but often times this information is not readily available. How can data bring more insight and transparency to the field? This was the challenge they aimed to overcome.

After a full day of data scraping and development, the Accelerators were ready to present their solution – a Medication Price Comparison Web App.

So, how does it work? Here is one of our Accelerators, Martijn to explain:

All medicine has a unique code according to the organ or system it works on, called ATC Code. After about 4 hours of data scraping, we gathered info on as many different ATC codes and their prices as possible. Next to that, for our target countries (and ATC-codes), we calculated a price per mg. or ml. Based on all of this data and units sold in the Netherlands, we projected how much it would cost to acquire all of your medicine in one of the other countries. In practice, this means that a person could easily compare and choose the most affordable place to get their medication from.” – Martijn van Laar, Anchormen Accelerator

medication comparison price

 

The web app compares drug prices in Belgium, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. But, theoretically, with enough time and investment, it can cover all markets for which there is enough data. The team finished their pitch with a call for action towards a standardized system for the entirety of Europe. Their research revealed that each country has its own coding system for public medicine data which makes comparison and insight very burdensome.

At the end of the day, although our team didn’t participate for the developmental budget reward (as the Accelerator program is demanding enough on its own), the team learnt a lot and received praise and recognition for their practical solution.

Within the first week of the program, they already faced many of the challenges that bigger projects present – the importance of good data quality, the stress of time constraint, and the decision-making risks that come with the job.

Do you also want to kick-start your data journey, learn from the best data experts, and gain real-live experience in the field? Join one of our traineeships today!

dutch airforce

Visiting Jonathan at the Dutch Royal Airforce

One of the clients within the High Potential Program is the Royal Dutch Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht). As a modern, high-tech branch of the armed forces, their work requires very precise and accurate intelligence in order for them to be able to keep the peace and security on the global scene.

In November 2018, one of our High Potentials joined their team as a Data Scientist and began his work on couple of projects. In this blog, we are sitting down with Jonathan van der Planken to learn a bit about his experience so far.

 

Hi Jonathan, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up where you are now?

Jonathan: Sure! I’m 26 years old, born and raised in the Netherlands. For my education, I studied in Delft. First, a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and later on a master’s in BioRobotics and Biomechanical Design. Even then I already knew my interests lay with Computer Vision & Robotics. Once I graduated I got a pretty good job at a large consultancy firm but even though they were top notch in their field I didn’t get to apply my skills with A.I. and Robotics the way I wanted to. So, I decided it’s time to look for something else.

I kept hearing about Anchormen being associated with a lot of high-tech projects in variety of fields and the High Potential Program seemed very appealing, so I decided to give it a try and see if they have what I was looking for.

The whole process went pretty smoothly. I first talked with Naiyara, which is one of the Recruiters within Anchormen. I explained to her what I’m looking for, and she helped me choose the best option based on my interests. One of my requirements was that I wanted to work on a Computer Vision project but something with more of a social impact. And as it turned out, she had the perfect place for me.

After that, I had a conversation with the manager of the innovation team at AirLab, the innovation lab of the Royal Airforce. The goal was to see if there is a fit with them as well. Then it was a couple of assignments to test my technical capabilities and a last round with Anchormen’s CTO, Jeroen Vlek. All in all, it took about 2-3 weeks and I was set to go.

From what I understood, your case was a bit special, compared to most of our High Potentials. Can you tell us something about that?

Jonathan: Ah yes. Well, it’s not that easy to start working at the Air Force. Because of the type of work the people there do, everyone needs to go through a security clearance check first. Without going into too much details, it involves a background search, public records, several forms, and some waiting time until the information has been processed.

In the meanwhile, I started working on an open source research projects for them, which did not require any security clearance. It was actually beneficial for me because I got to learn about the type of data they work with as well as gain some skills at Anchormen because I didn’t have much data science experience beforehand.

So, you’ve been working there for several months now. Can you tell us a bit about how your week looks like?

Jonathan: I’ll do my best. Currently, I’m working with a small team which consists of an operational data specialist, an IT specialist, myself as a data scientist, and some management that oversees the ongoing projects.

In general, my time is split between two main projects. The first one is monitoring the Dutch airspace and analyzing the data that comes from all the passing flying objects. I do that at the AOCS Nieuw Milligen, which is the Air Operations Control Station. I usually go there on Mondays.

Tuesdays I’m working either at the Anchormen office or at the location of one of the AirLab partners. The Innovation team is pretty flexible, so we are able to work on plenty of locations.

Wednesday and Thursday, I’m usually in Breda, where the Air Force has its headquarters. There I usually work on the second main project which is about Satellite Data Image analysis. I can’t really say much about it, other than it involves A.I. and Deep Learning techniques and it aims to improve a lot of processes and bring on positive impact. It’s quite ambitious and I’m looking forward to seeing the results there.

And on Fridays, I’m at the Anchormen office in Amsterdam for the High Potential training. It’s the coaching and lessons day, where I’m with the other trainees and we usually learn new things or find ways to improve our own work for the clients.

What are your thoughts about the program and the projects so far?

Jonathan: I’m really enjoying myself! I’ve been working as a Data Scientist for almost a year now and I think I’m finally getting used to the idea of referring to myself as one as well. I had a lot of theoretical knowledge when I first started the program, but not much practical skills and I really can’t believe the amazing progress I’ve made. I faced quite a few tasks which I felt were impossible to get over, but now that I look back on them, I feel confident in my abilities. Although I had a lot of guidance from both Anchormen and my team at the AirLab, I also had to learn a lot of things on my own. Which is really what being a Data Scientist is all about.

As for the Air Force. I’m really grateful I got the opportunity to join their team. The people there are amazing and the work they do really matters. I hope that I’m able to successfully finish the projects and deliver some good results and insight!

Thanks Jonathan for finding some time in your busy schedule to sit down with us and share your experience from the High Potential Program.
For everyone interested in learning more about the Anchormen traineeships and the Academy in general, you can check out more information here and here.