Global Pulse is an innovation initiative in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, harnessing today’s new world of data to gain a real-time understanding of changes in human well-being.
Global Pulse functions as an innovation laboratory, bringing together expertise from UN agencies, governments, academia, and the private sector to research, develop, test and share tools and approaches for harnessing real-time data for more effective and efficient policy action.
Our implementation strategy takes a systems-based approach, with three interdependent areas of activity:
- Data Research: Exploring innovative methods and frameworks for combining new types of real-time data with traditional development indicators to detect early impacts of global shocks;
- Developing Collaborative Technologies: Assembling a technology platform - largely assembled from existing free and open source technologies - to house cutting edge tools for sharing hypotheses and integrating, analyzing and visualizing data;
- Network of Pulse Labs: A catalytic network of in-country innovation centers—the first of which has been established in New York—that will use the methods and tools for real-time impact monitoring, collaborative analysis and decision-making at the country level and support the adoption of useful innovations into standard practice.
The recent waves of global shocks – food, fuel, and financial – have revealed a wide gap between the onset of a global crisis and the availability of actionable information for decision makers to protect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Traditional statistics have been effective in tracking medium- to longer- term development trends, but – given the latency of the data generated – have little usefulness in generating the type of real-time information decision makers need in developing timely actions to help vulnerable populations cope with crises. Much of the data used to track progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), for example, dates back to 2008 or earlier – before the onset of the current economic crisis. The delay in data is often compounded by a knowledge gap: when household-level data does become available, it is generally only able to paint a partial picture of how populations have been coping with crisis-related stress factors. For example, information on changes and shifts within a country’s informal economy is often absent as it is outside the reach of traditional data collection systems.
Knowing in close to real time the “how, where and when” of a crisis is crucial for the design of effective policy responses. While this requirement may be obvious in the aftermath of a natural disaster, it is also increasingly evident in the context of slower-onset crises, such as the financial crisis. Finding out today how a community began coping with a crisis two years ago is generally too late to prevent longer-term damage. The price a country pays for not knowing how specific segments of its population are coping with shocks is high. Hard-won development gains are at risk as the resilience of families is eroded, causing households to lose ground in their struggle to escape poverty and driving many of those who had escaped back into destitution.
Global Pulse will contribute to the international community’s goals to:
- Provide additional opportunities for gauging population well-being. Global Pulse data research efforts will help to identify new, promising sources of real-time information for monitoring population well being, and develop guidelines about what new data sources to monitor, what patterns to look for, how to validate them and what they mean. The results will bring us closer to a real-time understanding of how communities are building resiliency and withstanding crises.
- Better protect countries against development reversals: In an age of increasing global volatility, hard-won development gains are in danger of being eroded much faster than in the past. Real-time actionable information provided by Global Pulse will allow the international community to better integrate vulnerability and resilience considerations into their development policy and planning, and to understand the impacts of a crisis on vulnerable populations early on when there is still time to prevent irreversible harm.
- More effectively target development resources: In a climate of increasing fiscal austerity, decision makers at every level face pressures on limited resources. Global Pulse will assist decision makers to plan and target interventions in times of crisis to ensure that those populations most at risk are protected from long-term harm.