Trainees seek out new data sources

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
Eight Datamatch teams tackled complex issues surrounding cyber crime and energy transition
© Sjoerd van der Hucht Fotografie
From 6 to 13 June, 40 trainees and data scientists from Rijks I-Traineeship and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) joined forces to explore complex issues surrounding cyber crime and energy transition. It all took place at a Datamatch organised by the CBS Academy in collaboration with Rijks I-Traineeship, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). The event gave participants the chance to apply knowledge and skills they had acquired during various traineeships over the past year.

Solving issues

Working to a tight schedule, eight teams of trainees analysed a range of issues in the fields of energy transition and cyber crime. They used datasets from both CBS and external partners such as TNO and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Bart Bakker, content manager at CBS Academy fills in the details: ‘The trainees had to explore the potential of smart thermostat data, for example, or use data to figure out the locations of lease cars. Another assignment looked at the differences between cyber-crime suspects and regular crime suspects. If they needed answers to specific questions, the teams were able to contact the relevant experts at CBS.’ External guest speakers also gave presentations at the Datamatch, clarifying the relationship between data analysis and current policy issues. They included officials working for the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security and the Public Prosecution Service’s cyber crime prosecutor.

Dark web

One of the participants in the Datamatch was Alexander Harms. He studied physics at Delft University of Technology and now works through the Rijks I-Traineeship as a data scientist for DICTU, one of the larger IT service providers within central government. ‘Our team was tasked with finding out how the dark web can be used to source information for new statistics on digital crime. We worked with a derived file from the dark web.’ CBS already has data on digital crime obtained from police records and through surveys in a sample of the population. But these do not begin to cover the full scope of digital crime. As Harms explains, ‘The dark web is a part of the internet that cannot be found using standard browsers, a place where many criminal services are available. It can be seen as a marketplace for illegal goods, everything from drugs to a false ID. Information about dark-web trade can be a valuable source in terms of gaining a more accurate impression of digital crime.’ On their five-day search, Harms’ team was able to map out part of the worldwide spread of cyber crime, including credit card fraud and the sale of XTC.

‘Our team was tasked with finding out how the dark web can be used to source information for new statistics on digital crime.’

A major achievement

On the last day of the Datamatch, all of the teams pitched the results of their research to over 100 interested parties. ‘The results were outstanding,’ Bakker says. ‘Harms’ team delivered a major achievement in charting the worldwide sale of illegal products on the dark web. The other teams also came up with surprising insights. It was clear to see that they made full use of the methods they learned during their training. For the trainees themselves, it was highly instructive to discover what data science has to offer in terms of solving relevant policy questions.’ The research results generated by all eight teams will soon be discussed with the relevant experts at CBS and interested parties from the CBS partner network and the Rijks I-Traineeship. They will look at how the results can be further developed and applied in policy practice.

ICT action plan

Bakker describes the Datamatch as an essential component of the training programme for the data track within the Rijks I-Traineeship. He is the man responsible for putting together last year’s training programmes for the various traineeships run by CBS and BZK. ‘The CBS traineeship has a professional focus with data science as a major component, while the Rijks I-Traineeship consists of more specialised programmes in data and data science.’ The Rijks I-Traineeship is part of a government-wide BZK programme to strengthen HR and IT within the civil service. One of its main aims is to recruit and retain sufficient government IT staff.