Global Pulse is a flagship innovation initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General on big data. Its vision is a future in which big data is harnessed safely and responsibly as a public good. Its mission is to accelerate discovery, development and scaled adoption of big data innovation for sustainable development and humanitarian action. 

The initiative was established based on a recognition that digital data offers the opportunity to gain a better understanding of changes in human well-being, and to get real-time feedback on how well policy responses are working. 

To this end, Global Pulse is working to promote awareness of the opportunities Big Data presents for relief and development, forge public-private data sharing partnerships, generate high-impact analytical tools and approaches through its network of Pulse Labs, and drive broad adoption of useful innovations across the UN System.

How We Work

Global Pulse functions as a network of innovation labs where research on Big Data for Development is conceived and coordinated. Global Pulse partners with experts from UN agencies, governments, academia, and the private sector to research, develop, and mainstream approaches for applying real-time digital data to 21st century development challenges. Objectives include:

  • Achieve a critical mass of implemented innovations
  • Lower systemic barriers to adoption and scaling
  • Strengthen the big data innovation ecosystem


These objectives are acheived through a two-track implementation strategy:


- 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.



The United Nations High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has called for a data revolution to improve accountability and decision-making, and to meet the challenges of measuring sustainable development progress.
But a global data revolution is already underway. People in both developing economies and industrialized ones are generating a growing ocean of digital data every minute of the day just by going about their daily lives. As people use mobile devices to communicate, buy and sell goods, transfer money, search for information on the Internet, and share their lives publicly on social networks, they leave digital trails that private sector firms are mining to understand the needs of customers, track emerging market trends, and monitor their own operations in real-time.
Once anonymized to protect privacy, the same data, tools and methodologies can also reveal insights on changes in human well-being, real-time trends on population behavior or perceptions related to sustainable development issues. Such insights can guide the public sector to respond more effectively to emerging crises and vulnerabilities.
Big data represents a new, renewable natural resource with the potential to revolutionize sustainable development and humanitarian practice.