UNDP and UN Global Pulse release practical guide to designing data innovation projects

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A how-to resource for development practitioners to help advance data innovation efforts for the Sustainable Development Goals

UNDP and UN Global Pulse today released a comprehensive guide on how to integrate new sources of data into development and humanitarian work.  

New and emerging data sources such as mobile phone data, social media, remote sensors and satellites have the potential to improve the work of governments and development organizations across the globe.

Entitled A Guide to Data Innovation for Development – From idea to proof-of-concept,’ this publication was developed by practitioners for practitioners. It provides step-by-step guidance for working with new sources of data to staff of UN agencies, development organizations, and international NGOs.

The guide is a result of a collaboration of UNDP and UN Global Pulse with support from UN Volunteers. Led by UNDP innovation teams in Europe and Central Asia and Arab States, six UNDP offices in Armenia, Egypt, Kosovo[1], fYR Macedonia, Sudan and Tunisia each completed data innovation projects applicable to development challenges on the ground.

The publication builds on these successful case trials and on the expertise of data innovators from UNDP and UN Global Pulse who managed the design and development of those projects.  

It provides practical guidance for jump-starting a data innovation project, from the design phase through the creation of a proof-of-concept.

The guide is structured into three sections – (I) Explore the Problem & System, (II) Assemble the Team and (III) Create the Workplan. Each of the sections comprises of a series of tools for completing the steps needed to initiate and design a data innovation project, to engage the right partners and to make sure that adequate privacy and protection mechanisms are applied.

“This Guide shows that our investments in innovation are paying off. In Tunisia, for example, the National Statistics Institute is now able to track sentiment regarding corruption based on analysis of data from a variety of social media sources. If the data revolution is to help fulfill the transformative potential of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development by realizing its fundamental principle of leaving no one behind, it is imperative that the United Nations itself not be left behind by the data revolution. This Guide will help to leverage emerging data sources for the 2030 Agenda” says Magdy Martinez-Soliman, Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

“The Sustainable Development Goals are recognized as transformative, universal and integrated, and to meet them will require new ways of working. Global Pulse has served as a big data innovation hub within the UN for the past five years, testing new approaches and designing big data pilot projects together with many partners and agencies. This guide distills our methodology and lessons learned and we hope it can serve as a valuable resource,” says Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of UN Global Pulse.

“As I’ve witnessed the six pilot offices navigate the uncharted waters of big data for development, it’s become clear that big data exploration is not only about technology and data, but also about people and their bravery in embracing innovative approaches,” said Vasko Popovski, UNDP Project Coordinator of the Big Data for Development initiative.

 “UNDP Sudan is proud to have been a pilot country in this unprecedented initiative on data innovation for development. The practical Guide fills a critical gap on guidance in addressing data privacy, partnership building and capacity development – all crucial considerations in data for development project design,” says Selva Ramachandran, UNDP Sudan Country Director.

To ensure the applicability of the tools in the Guide, they were tested by more than 17 UN agencies during a two-day Data Innovation Lab workshop organized by UNDP and UN Global Pulse in September.

Download ‘A Guide to Data Innovation for Development – From idea to proof-of-concept’ here.

[1] In the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)



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