Emerging Research at Pulse Lab Kampala

3 min read
Pulse Lab Kampala -like the other labs in New York and Jakarta – operates as a data innovation lab to bring together experts from the public sector, academia and private sector. In this ‘safe space’ they can research and mainstream approaches for applying new, digital data sources and real-time analysis techniques to social development and humanitarian challenges. Today I wanted to introduce our team in Uganda and talk about some of our emerging research.

Pulse Lab Kampala – An Opportunity for Integrated Innovation

Pulse Lab Kampala is an inter-agency initiative of the United Nations under the UN Resident Coordinators Office (RCO). The lab is located in Kololo – Kampala, in a building that also houses UNWomen. The multidisciplinary team comprises a Data Scientist and technical lead, Data Engineer, a Communications Specialist, a Project Associate, Project Officer and Partnerships Coordinator.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie has welcomed the Global Pulse initiative in Uganda, stating that she recognizes the opportunities that a young and connected population presents. She noted that there is a range of data available in Uganda, which is currently not being captured, systematized, analyzed and disseminated and sees an opportunity in PLK as an integrated platform for such work to be undertaken. In the UN Uganda Newsletter of April 2014, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie said:
‘The initiative is timely for the UN given a recent launch of UN Uganda’s ‘Delivering as One’ – the ongoing implementation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) Action Plan for the next two years, focusing on areas of convergence of actions by as many UN agencies as possible on ‘game changers’. These ‘game changers’ are interventions where the UN system agencies will work innovatively and collectively to make a significant difference. They are results that are attainable by the end of 2015 particularly in the three convergence areas of Maternal and Newborn Health, Youth Engagement and Employment; and Gender, Women Empowerment and Gender Based Violence’

Pulse Lab Kampala’s Ongoing Research

The team is currently reaching out to a wide range of potential partners including Ugandan companies and research organisations that are interested in collaboration. Partners can offer a topic or project idea where the use of real-time digital data could be valuable in achieving development objectives. Private Sector and academic partners can collaborate by offering time or expertise, or the use of cutting-edge technologies for data mining, real-time analytics and data visualization, or sharing storage and computing abilities.
In the coming months the research team will explore diverse sources of big data such as social media, radio and online news content as well as blogs, forum posts and public comments. Additionally, anonymized communication, retail and financial services data will be explored alongside various types of traditional “ground-truth” data.
Several of our research projects are now underway and include:
  • In collaboration with UNFPA: an analysis of social media and UNICEF U-report data for emerging topics and perceptions related to contraception and teenage pregnancy. Although we are still receiving input from the different partners, the work-in-progress can be seen here.
  • In collaboration with UNDP: an analysis of social media and UNICEF Ureport data to determine which Post-2015 Development Agenda themes are most discussed by Ugandans. We are currently receiving input from partners to contribute to a real-time dashboard. The work-in progress site can be seen here.
  • In collaboration with UNAIDS: an analysis of social media and UNICEF U-report data to monitor public conversations related to HIV/AIDS in order to understand the emerging issues in real-time. The dashboard is still under review and is not yet live.

Privacy and data protection is a priority

In all our research, privacy and data protection are cornerstones. The data collected and analyzed by PLK is for development purposes and does not include personally identifiable information. Instead, data sets are anonymised and aggregated to ensure full protection of individual privacy.
Pulse Lab Kampala is committed to the UN Global Pulse privacy principles, and we abide by a ‘privacy by design’ approach to ensure privacy principles are at the core of any research process or technology development.
We will continue to share updates on our research agenda as well as information on ongoing and upcoming research projects in the Global Pulse research section.
Image: U-reporter texting in Uganda. Photo credit: UNICEF Uganda/2012/Sekandi

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