Pulse Labs bring together government experts, UN agencies, academia and the private sector to pioneer new methods and frameworks for for using Big Data to support development goals. Pulse Labs tap into local knowledge and innovation, establish key partnerships, test and pilot real-time monitoring approaches at the country level, and support the adoption of proven approaches.
Innovating From the Ground Up
In order to gain insights that are actionable for global development policymakers, data needs to be understood in context. Understanding how different cultures and communities use digital services such as mobile phones, microloans or social media is central to being able to leverage Big Data for development purposes.
That’s why Global Pulse is organized into a network of Pulse Labs in different regions of the world with a headquarters lab in New York, USA since late 2009, a lab in Jakarta, Indonesia, which opened in 2012, and a lab in Kampala, Uganda that opened in late 2013.
Pulse Labs design, scope, and co-create projects with UN Agencies and public sector institutions who provide sectoral expertise, and with private sector or academic partners who often provide access to data or analytical and engineering tools. The staff in Pulse Labs include a number of specialist roles - typically including data scientists, data analysts, data engineers, partnerships managers, privacy and legal experts and policy liaisons.
To guide the work of each Pulse Lab, an annual research agenda is set, with strategic priorities agreed with stakeholders. Current applied research projects address wide-ranging topics including: food security, humanitarian logistics, economic well-being, gender discrimination and health.
Creating An Innovative Ecosystem
In-country Pulse Lab locations 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.
By sharing their breakthroughs, Pulse Labs help establish and mainstream global best practices of how new sources of digital data and emerging technologies may be used to help policy makers understand, in real time, what is happening to vulnerable populations.
A lab environment provides a space for technologies and analysis techniques to be tried rapidly and iteratively, where teams can learn from each other, and from other labs and contribute knowledge to a larger ecosystem.