Project Details

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

Global Pulse

Ban Ki-Moon’s drive on Big Data

By United Nations

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Project Twitter: @UNGlobalPulse

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  • Audiovisual
  • Data

UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon set up Global Pulse in 2009 to drive the use of big data for public good, specifically in sustainable development and humanitarian action. 

While Global Pulse sounds big, it’s actually a tiny team of 11 based within the innovation arm of the Secretary General’s own Manhattan office (plus seven in Jakarta and a new team beginning soon in Kampala). Together, this small gang of big-data evangelists are trying to hack the huge UN system: flying the flag for data philanthropy and data commons at conferences and events, catalysing relationships between universities, governments and the private sector to increase the number and scale of ‘big data for development’ success stories, making it easier for UN agencies and partners to adopt, scale or replicate big data projects and programmes, and prototype new tools and approaches.

It also encourages commercial organisations, such as telcos, to release big data-sets for the UN’s R&D and public health analysis. The group launched in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, when Ban Ki-Moon called for a data revolution in development, saying, ‘Our traditional 20th-century tools for tracking international development cannot keep up.’

Good use of data, the group contends, will help UN programmes and policies move faster, adapt to changing circumstances and be more effective: improve accountability and decision making, monitoring and evaluation, and guide crisis response so it targets genuine need. All of which, ultimately will help the agency lift more communities out of poverty and save more lives.

‘We’re trying to track unemployment and disease as if it was a brand,’ says Global Pulse’s CEO Robert Kirkpatrick.

 Setting out to change the modus operandi of the $18 billion dollar a year secretariat to being one that is ‘digital-by-default’ will be no mean feat. Hats off to team Global Pulse.

Image 'Global Voices on Poverty: A Conversation with Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon' courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection

Last updated: 17th of July, 2014

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