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Filed under: Development 2.0 Social innovation

Srbia (3)

Visualization of geo-located tweets, Serbia floods, May 2014, UNDP.

The world is changing fast—and so must our approaches to persistent development issues.

An ever-increasing number of people and devices and objects now generate data – social networks, mass media, transportation, mobile phones, credit cards, etc.

What matters now is not how much data we have, but rather what can we do with all of it.

That’s why for our big data for development exploration journey we are looking to harness these new sources of data to improve services – from disaster risk management, unemployment tracking and reduction, to migration and poverty.

Our approach involves two main components:

1) Reviewing existing big data projects and producing a guidebook to support the design of big data projects; and

2) Ensuring that country offices get hands-on experience in developing and implementing big data projects.

We are fortunate to have a strong partner in UN Global Pulse, whose projects range from real-time e-pricing of bread to using mobile phone data and airtime credit purchases to estimate food security. UN Global Pulse will leverage its previous experience and expertise in providing advisory support to the proposed big data/mobile phone innovation projects in selected country offices.

We will cooperate with the UNV programme and through their Online Volunteering service to tap into the expertise of volunteers in the field of data (e.g. data scientists, data privacy professionals and data engineers).

MKD Floods 03.02.2015

Floods & other emergencies in fyr Macedonia, 03.02.2015, Mobile DRR Application, UNDP.

Six offices in Europe, Central Asia and the Arab States are joining us on our quest:

1. The Macedonian team thinks that the way people use their phones can tell us a lot about what type of risks they are exposed to and may give us clues on how to reduce them.

2. Armenia colleagues want to establish a climate change early warning system by creating a network of sensors that collect environmental data (humidity, air pressure, noise, etc.)

3. The Kosovo[1] team intends to examine emergency calls in order to analyse their geospatial and time distribution, identifying the patterns of demand for emergency services, mapping hotspots and historical trends.

4. The Sudan team will explore whether electricity usage can function as a proxy indicator for socio-economic analysis.

5. Our colleagues from Egypt are interested in analysing data deriving from the government for various purposes.

6. The big data aficionados in Tunisia want to improve governance through big data analysis for better sustainable development goals.

Stay tuned as we dive in!

Be sure to follow #UNDP4Future on Twitter for regular updates on the ongoing big data for development experiments!


[1] References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).

  • wrapat

    I very much likes this article. Thank you. Why I like it because it is obvious that the use of smartphones will play an increasing role in our lives in the future, i.e. they are the communication tool of choice for the vast majority of the population. Currently the use of phones is leading a large percentage of younger people into a psychological addiction, which encourages narcissistic tendencies, i.e. the ‘selfie’ syndrome, which obviously has consequences down the line. However, although this is a negative aspect for phone usage, we can also use this to societies advantage. Since nearly everyone has a smartphone, which they check for emails or texts on a more than regular basis (addiction – like playing a slot machine), and since the technology for app development is relatively simple, we can easily develop apps for smartphones for personal and society emergency situations. The days of the governments leading the way with respect to emergency situations are long gone. For example, I remember the recent floods in Bosnia and Serbia and watched as the government clearly did nothing. It was the CSOs/NGOs that sprung into action and saved peoples lives. With the respect to the Balkans, the use of an app for flood alerts would be priceless. However, in order to make the app work for people, it needs to have data behind it. Here is an example of such a thing for flood alerts in the UK, not an app but a mobile friendly website: http://www.gaugemap.co.uk/ – this can also be made for the Balkans – come on UNDP put a project together with GIZ and the regional hydromets to make the same and help save peoples lives.