Pulse Labs are in-country innovation centers that will tap into local knowledge and innovation, establish key partnerships, pilot real-time monitoring approaches at the country level, and support the adoption of proven approaches globally.
Pulse Labs operate as hubs where data analysts, developers and designers, and program planners from government, the UN, private sector and civil society will work together to explore ideas and to design and develop tools that can be used to recognize signals in data exhaust. By sharing their breakthroughs they will help establish and mainstream global best practices of how real-time data and emerging technologies may be used to help policy makers understand, in real time, what is happening to vulnerable populations.
Prototyping countries are self-selected, taking geographic balance into consideration. Host countries must express an explicit interest in hosting a lab and must be willing to share lessons, experiences and findings with labs in other countries. Factors that are conducive to the success of in-country Pulse Labs include: regional vulnerability to global crises; existing real-time data collection initiatives; a nascent open source technology community; a vibrant local business environment; accelerating mobile phone coverage; and a track record of grassroots innovation.
Labs will draw both on the regional expertise of the host countries as well as the international network of United Nations agencies. As a general principle Pulse Labs—in their function as innovation hubs—will have a “one foot in, one food out” institutional approach that will balance government ownership (and the involvement of other regional governments) with open innovation. Although the concept of a laboratory as the primary vehicle for public and private-sector research and development goes back decades, the systematic use of iterative experimentation to drive innovation in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for global development has appeared only within the past few years. A major value of a lab is that it provides a physical space that is neutral—which can bring together private sector, civil society and academia for effective collaboration. A lab also provides a space where technologies and analysis techniques can be tried and can fail rapidly and iteratively, where teams can learn from each other, and from other labs in a manner akin to how private sector innovators are creating increased value and expanding possibilities by celebrating rapid, low-cost failures leading towards eventual success.
There is no single model for a Pulse Lab, although they will be inspired by innovation labs at universities and other research institutions. Each lab will add knowledge and value by contributing its ideas and work to the larger lab ecosystem by sharing lessons learned and best practices. It is expected that common protocols, technologies, vision and structure will emerge to allow the Pulse Labs to connect to each other, and thus support the larger fabric of the Global Pulse initiative.