Global Pulse is an innovation initiative of the UN Secretary-General, harnessing today's new world of digital data and real-time analytics to gain a better understanding of changes in human well-being. Global Pulse hopes to contribute a future in which access to better information sooner makes it possible to keep international development on track, protect the world's most vulnerable populations, and strengthen resilience to global shocks.

Type of content: Assets
Type of asset:
Use case
Big data potential
Policy domains: Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry & Foods Economy & Finance Education, Youth, Culture & Sport Employment & Social Security Foreign Affairs and Defence Health Innovation, Science & Technology Justice, Legal System & Public Safety Institutional Questions / Internal Affairs
Phase in the policy cycle:
Policy Design and Analysis
Open license availability
Ease of use
Tags: Predictive analytics Real time information
SWOT Analysis for
Global Pulse
Helpful Harmful
Strengths• Functions as a network of innovation labs where research on Big Data for Development is conceived and coordinated.
• Achieve a critical mass of implemented innovations
• Lower systemic barriers to adoption and scaling
• Strengthen the big data innovation ecosystem
• Partners with experts from UN agencies, governments, academia, and the private sector
• Implement data innovation programmes through Pulse Labs to provide UN and development partners with access to the data, tools and expertise required to discover new uses of big data for development.
• Develop toolkits, applications and platforms to improve data-driven decision-making and support evaluation of promising solutions.
• Contribute to the development of regulatory frameworks and technical standards to address data sharing and privacy protection challenges.
• Engage key stakeholders on a priority innovation agenda.
• Provide public sector organisations with policy guidance and technical assistance to strengthen their capacity for integrating real-time insights into operations.
Weaknesses• There are important gaps in knowledge and understanding between development evaluators and big data specialists
• There are also differences in the role of theory.
• Access to big data can be a challenge as much of the data is proprietary and may only be available to certain groups and only on a restricted basis. However, data philanthropy, can create the basis for obtaining data from private sector companies.
• Data privacy and data protection. Big data frequently involves the analysis of large amounts of personal data, much of which may be very personal and in some cases put people at risk. Organizations working with new sources of data should have in place data privacy and data protection mechanisms that mitigate the risk of harms to individuals and groups of individuals.
• Capacity development and strengthening computing infrastructure are additional challenges requiring upgrading big data knowledge and skills of M&E specialists as well as management and operational staff. Often organizations will also have to make major investments in upgrading their computing capacity, or building relationships with agencies that already have this capacity.
• The incorporation of big data into programme evaluation requires the development of a big data responsive evaluation culture.
• National statistics offices are often under–staffed or most of their resources are committed to conducting conventional surveys.
Opportunities• Exponential increase in the number of non-profit entities, like Flowminder, Data Pop Alliance, World Pop, working with mobile data to develop big data for social good case studies
• Promote awareness of the opportunities Big Data presents for sustainable development and humanitarian action,
• Forge public-private data sharing partnerships,
• Generate high-impact analytical tools and approaches through its network of Pulse Labs
• Drive broad adoption of useful innovations across the UN System.
• Global Pulse and social media platform Twitter signed an agreement to provide the UN system access to Twitter’s data and tools. The collaboration builds on existing research and development that has shown the power of social media for social impact.
Threats• Data privacy and data protection. Big data frequently involves the analysis of large amounts of personal data, much of which may be very personal and in some cases put people at risk.
• Natural disasters
• Economic crisis
• Failure to capture information on processes of behavioural change.

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