Annual Report 2019

UN Global Pulse

Year in Review

New methods, tools, and privacy-protecting policies

It’s been a decade since UN Global Pulse was set up inside the office of the UN Secretary-General to unleash the power of big data and analytics to protect vulnerable populations. Much has changed since then, and the data innovation ecosystem continues to grow and mature in ways that have significant implications for the work conducted by the network of Pulse Labs. 

Recognising the need to adapt our approach, UN Global Pulse embarked in 2019 on an internal exercise to understand how to continue to deliver optimal value for the organizations and communities we serve.

With renewed priorities, the initiative will increase the volume of innovations with potential for global impact, forge forward-thinking partnerships, create enabling policy frameworks, and accelerate the adoption of mainstream approaches in communities of practice. 

This report provides an overview of the year’s work and highlights the impact we’ve achieved, laying the groundwork for a second decade of activity at UN Global Pulse. 

 

This report provides an overview of the year’s work and highlights the impact we’ve achieved, laying the groundwork for a second decade of activity at UN Global Pulse. 

About UN Global Pulse

Our renewed innovation agenda for 2020 and beyond

UN Global Pulse is the UN Secretary-General’s initiative on big data and artificial intelligence (AI) for sustainable development, humanitarian action, and peace. It works through a network of innovation labs, called Pulse Labs, which operate in Jakarta, Indonesia, in Kampala, Uganda, and in New York at UN Headquarters.

The overarching objectives of UN Global Pulse are to:

  • Drive exploratory research on new insights that can be gleaned from unconventional data sources and artificial intelligence.

  • Assist UN entities, governments, and development partners in making better use of their data.

  • Advocate for the ethical use of data and technological platforms in line with the protection of individual privacy.

A New Portfolio of Work

To better deliver on these objectives, UN Global Pulse identified three streams of activity to guide our future work. Starting in 2020, all deliverables will be benchmarked against this new strategy.

Past Strategy

Work with the UN system, governments, academia, and private sector partners to discover, build, and pilot high-potential applications of big data and artificial intelligence for sustainable development, humanitarian action, and peace.

Contribute to global efforts to establish trusted frameworks for ethical and privacy protective data practices and innovation. 

Provide public sector organisations with the policy guidance and technical assistance needed for mainstream adoption of innovative data practices and technologies.

Advocate for greater public awareness and support communities of practice across diverse disciplines and geographies to accelerate development of big data and AI applications.

Renewed Strategy

Research new applications of big data and artificial intelligence to address emerging challenges.

Accelerate uptake of software platforms, methods, approaches, and algorithms UN Global Pulse has been developing over the years to achieve measurable impact.

Support development of instruments, partnerships, and mechanisms to strengthen privacy and data protection while encouraging a rights-based and ethical approach to data and AI across sectors.

The Network of Pulse Labs

UN Global Pulse brings together governments, UN entities, and partners from academia and the private sector to test, refine, and scale methods for using big data and artificial intelligence to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Pulse Labs are made up of multidisciplinary teams of data scientists, engineers, designers, social scientists, communication experts, and data privacy and legal specialists, who work together with development and humanitarian practitioners to prototype and implement innovation programmes. 

Track 1: Innovation Driver

Working on exploratory research and innovative tools

UN Global Pulse continued to work with development and humanitarian practitioners at both the global and the local level to discover, build, pilot, and evaluate data-driven projects and applications using artificial intelligence. This section highlights tools and methods that were developed and refined in 2019, and presents the findings from exploratory work conducted by the Pulse Labs.

UN Global Pulse continued to work with development and humanitarian practitioners at both the global and the local level to discover, build, pilot, and evaluate data-driven projects and applications using artificial intelligence. 

Building Fit-for-Purpose AI Tools

Track 2: Ecosystem Catalyst

Fostering an enabling environment for greater uptake of big data and AI

UN Global Pulse continued to work on a programme of catalytic activities designed to foster an enabling environment for greater uptake of big data and artificial intelligence in development, humanitarian, and peace contexts.

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Driving technology Policy Work

Donors & Partners

Funding and strategic collaboration, at global, regional and country-level, are the core components of a successful UN Global Pulse

Donors

UN Global Pulse is funded entirely through voluntary contributions from UN Member States, foundations and private sector entities.

Thanks to our collaborators

Forging partnerships for the Public Good

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UN Global Pulse continued to engage with companies in data, expertise, and technology sharing collaborations for the benefit of the entire UN System.

These partnerships advance the Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies, an effort to boost the UN’s uptake of cutting-edge technology and accelerate learning, innovation, and entrepreneurship for progress towards the SDGs.

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Brandwatch

Based on our longstanding and fruitful partnership with AI-powered consumer insights company Crimson Hexagon—now part of Brandwatch—UN Global Pulse provided training on social media analytics to country teams for UNHCR, OCHA, IOM, and UNFPA. Furthermore, UN Global Pulse developed a tutorial to introduce teams at the UN to quantitative social media monitoring and analysis. 

Dataminr

A new partnership was forged with Dataminr that provides UN personnel with access to their real-time event detection product for the public sector. Dataminr is the leading AI platform for first response, and their product, aptly named First Alert, provides real-time alerts about breaking events.

Twitter

Our long standing partnership with Twitter provides UN-wide access to the social media giant’s firehose for projects aimed at accelerating the SDGs. Teams in UNFPA, UNDP, OIOS, and UN Global Pulse itself used Twitter data to, for example, gauge awareness of and perceptions around family planning programmes, understand online hate speech, and more generally monitor the development and implementation of UN-led  programmes on the ground

Our Partners in 2019

Events & Workshops

22 Jan 2019

World Economic Forum

Pulse Lab New York joined a panel discussion on “Global Aspirations for Prediction,” alongside Quartz, Google, and World Quant. Panelists discussed ways in which predictive technologies can provide meaningful insights for the SDGs and for society in general.

22 Jan 2019
17 Feb 2019

AI for Social Good Workshop

Pulse Lab Jakarta discussed how the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence has enhanced its work to advance development agendas in the Asia Pacific region towards the achievement of the SDGs. 

17 Feb 2019
25/28 Feb 2019

Mobile World Congress

The Labs took part in several sessions at the MWC to discuss how mobile data can responsibly advance development and humanitarian action. UN Global Pulse is a member of the Big Data for Social Good (BD4SG) initiative.

25/28 Feb 2019
4 March 2019

Principles for AI: Towards a Humanistic Approach

During a panel discussion at UNESCO’s conference Pulse Lab New York talked about how data analytics and AI are revolutionizing development practice and how data privacy, data protection and ethical safeguards are intrinsic elements for the safe use of these technologies. 

4 March 2019
20/22 March 2019

Data Innovation Clinic

Pulse Lab Jakarta hosted colleagues from Aga Khan Foundation, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), InnovationXchange, The Ethics Centre and Roshan Telecom for a three-day data innovation clinic  focused on exploring the different contexts in which data innovation takes place.

20/22 March 2019
3 April 2019

Towards a Network of Excellence in AI4D in Sub-Saharan Africa

At the workshop, Pulse Lab Kampala shared its experience on the work conducted to support the development of ethical frameworks for AI in Uganda, and discussed with participants opportunities and challenges around AI policies. 

3 April 2019
5 April 2019

Dataku: Data Analytics and Visualisation Workshop

Pulse Lab Jakarta organised a training workshop with representatives from the Ministry of National Development Planning to showcase Dataku, a data visualisation prototype that the Lab developed to enhance the Ministry’s work and decision-making processes. 

5 April 2019
5 April 2019

Dataku: Data Analytics and Visualisation Workshop

Pulse Lab Jakarta organised a training workshop with representatives from the Ministry of National Development Planning to showcase Dataku, a data visualisation prototype that the Lab developed to enhance the Ministry’s work and decision-making processes. 

5 April 2019
30 April / 2 May 2019

ICT4D Conference

At the 11th Information Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) Conference, Pulse Lab Kampala presented its work in a plenary session that addressed the issues of AI and machine learning, and in a subsequent workshop that it helped organize around the same topic.  

30 April / 2 May 2019
29 April / 3 May 2019

5th International Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics

Pulse Lab Kampala and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics presented a data-driven project they worked on that uses official statistics and other sources of data to estimate the growth of slums in real-time using artificial intelligence.

29 April / 3 May 2019
30 April / 3 May 2019

Global Privacy Summit

Pulse Lab New York participated in the Global Privacy Summit organized by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) in April, where discussions centred on how to develop sound data privacy and data protection mechanisms.

30 April / 3 May 2019
1 May 2019

Milken Institute Global Conference 2019

Pulse Lab New York joined a panel of experts at Milken to discuss how AI technologies can best be leveraged to support the transition to a new global development paradigm powered by real-time, predictive and prescriptive analytics.

1 May 2019
12 May 2019

UNDP Data Innovation Clinic

Pulse Lab Jakarta served as one of the mentors during the clinic, which was organised by the UNDP Regional Hubs in Amman and Istanbul, and facilitated a dialogue on how thick data from the depths of human stories can complement big data analytics.

12 May 2019
28/ 31 May 2019

AI for Good Global Summit

The Pulse Labs presented in various sessions where they emphasised the importance of harnessing emerging real-time data and artificial intelligence to help develop innovative tools that can be scaled up to monitor progress on the SDGs.

28/ 31 May 2019
28 May 2019

5th International Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping Symposium

Pulse Lab Kampala joined conversations of this year’s symposium with the theme ‘predict, prevent, protect’ to discuss how big data analytics and machine learning processes can be used to inform decision making processes particularly in peacekeeping operations. 

28 May 2019
3 /7 June 2019

Data Science Africa 

 Pulse Lab Kampala was involved in organizing the DSA 2019 workshops, the first of which took place in Ethiopia in June, and the second in Ghana later on in the year. 

3 /7 June 2019
12 June 2019

AI and Privacy: Challenges and Ways Forward in the Global South

At RightsCon, Pulse Lab New York presented its ongoing efforts to advance data protection, data privacy and ethics in the Global South. Discussions mapped the challenges to the right to privacy brought about by AI in the Global South, and put forth ideas on how these challenges could be overcome.

12 June 2019
15 June 2019

AI for Social Good Workshop 

At the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) Pulse Lab New York presented its work during a workshop entitled “AI for Good” highlighting the findings of a study it conducted on the risks of AI-generated texts to spread misinformation and fake content. 

15 June 2019
16 June 2019

Workshop on Computer Vision for Global Challenges 

Pulse Lab Jakarta’s proposal to the Computer Vision for Global Challenges (CV4GC) initiative was selected as one of the final 17 challenge winners. During the workshop, the Lab presented the model it designed to nowcast air pollution and received expert feedback from the computer vision community on how to refine its development.

16 June 2019
18/19 June 2019

Measuring Spatial Inequalities Using AI Technologies

Pulse Lab Kampala hosted  a workshop on measuring spatial inequalities with AI during the European Development Days forum. At the session, Pulse Lab Kampala and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics presented their collaborative work using AI technologies to monitor trends in the growth of slums in Uganda. 

18/19 June 2019
21 June 2019

Understanding Migration and Refugee Situations in the Age of Big Data

Pulse Lab New York hosted a workshop at the 2nd edition of the Design for Humanity Summit focused on understanding migration in the age of big data. The team presented three projects developed with UNHCR. 

21 June 2019
26 June 2019

Building ethical AI approaches in the Global South

Pulse Lab New York, Pulse Lab Kampala, the Ministry of Communications for Ghana and the Data Protection Commission for Ghana hosted a session on developing ethical AI frameworks in the Global South followed by a workshop on developing an ethical AI strategy during the 1st African Region Data Protection and Privacy International Conference.

26 June 2019
3 July 2019

Africa Blockchain Conference

At the event, Pulse Lab Kampala participated in a panel discussion entitled “Linking the SDGs and the 4IR.” The key message of the session was on ensuring an enabling environment for innovation and emerging technologies to help advance the SDGs.

3 July 2019
25 July 2019

Tech Innovation Braintrust

NEXUS Global, a leading global community of social entrepreneurs, and Pulse Lab New York hosted a Tech Innovation Braintrust at the UN Headquarters in New York, gathering some 45 participants to discuss opportunities to advance the use of novel technologies at the UN.

25 July 2019
23 August 2019

12th ATRANS Annual Conference

Pulse Lab Jakarta made a case for the use of non-conventional data sources to improve mobility, by presenting proofs-of-concept from its urban dynamics portfolio that integrate big data from new technologies and apply machine learning approaches.

23 August 2019
4/5 Sept 2019

ASEAN-China-UNDP Symposium 2019

Pulse Lab Jakarta broached important questions regarding how governments should go about building an inclusive innovation system that benefits the most vulnerable, specifically the role of technology and big data in addressing the shortcomings of the existing system.

4/5 Sept 2019
23 Sept 2019

Partnering for Progress: How Real-time Social Data Advances the SDGs

Pulse Lab New York,  Dataminr, and Twitter hosted an event during the UN General Assembly week in New York to showcase how real-time social data can help advance the SDGs. The event gathered 250 representatives from government, UN agencies, companies, and academia. 

23 Sept 2019
25 Sept 2019

3rd Workshop of the Global Data Access Framework (GDAF)

Following constructive discussions at the World Government Summit and the AI for Good Global Summit, this third workshop identified data- and technology-driven use cases that the GDAF initiative will pilot. The GDAF is co-led by UN Global Pulse, The Future Society’s AI Initiative, and McKinsey’s Noble Intelligence initiative.

25 Sept 2019
15 Oct 2019

AI, People and the Planet

Pulse Lab New York joined leading Swedish and U.S. experts to talk about the risks and opportunities that artificial intelligence poses for sustainability and the 2030 Agenda. 

15 Oct 2019
25 Oct 2019

Panel on AI Ethics

Pulse Lab Kampala participated in a panel discussion at the Data Science Africa workshop in Ghana that addressed the key challenges in the design and use of AI, including the topics of algorithmic transparency and bias.

25 Oct 2019
6 Nov 2019

UNLEASH 2019

Pulse Lab New York was invited to keynote the launch of UNLEASH 2019 and to kick off the week’s events. In the presence of hundreds of talented youth and experts from across the public and private sector, UN Global Pulse urged for increased action and innovative thinking to speed up achievement of the SDGs.

 

6 Nov 2019
13 and 15 Nov 2019

Governance of AI: human rights-based approach to AI in line with recommendations 3A and 3C of High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation

This multi-day event, co-hosted with UN Human Rights, focused on the development of a human rights-based approach to AI and other emerging technologies.

13 and 15 Nov 2019
14 Nov 2019

Data Governance at International Organizations: From Theory to Practice

Following the adoption of the UN Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy, this meeting was focused on how International Organizations (IOs) could operationalize their data privacy policies and mechanisms.

14 Nov 2019
25/28 Nov 2019

Internet Governance Forum

Together with the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation, Pulse Lab New York hosted two sessions at the Internet Governance Forum: “Artificial Intelligence in Africa—Between Ethical Challenges and Technical Opportunities” and “The Future of Artificial Intelligence and Sustainable Development”.

25/28 Nov 2019
9/12 Dec 2019

IEEE International Conference on Big Data

Pulse Lab Jakarta presented its data analytics research on modelling wealth in Papua New Guinea using call detail records and tele-survey data during a special session on machine learning and big data.

9/12 Dec 2019
14 Dec 2019

AI for Social Good

At NeurIPS, Pulse Lab New York co-hosted a workshop on “AI for Social Good.” Gathering the best and brightest in the industry, the one-day workshop focused on three specific tracks: ‘Producing good outcomes’, ‘From malicious use to responsible AI’ and  ‘Public policy.’

 

14 Dec 2019
17 Dec 2019

Meeting on governance of data and AI of the Ugandan Expert Task Force on 4th Industrial Revolution Technology

To support the Ugandan Expert Task Force on 4th Industrial Revolution Technologies in addressing the complex AI ecosystem in Uganda, Pulse Lab New York convened experts from the fields of data privacy, data protection, ethics, and human rights to establish the groundwork for developing an ethical AI framework in Uganda.

17 Dec 2019

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