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United Nations: How We Will Gather Realtime Data

PSFK is working with the UN Global Pulse team on a new "Future Of" report that is due out in December.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
Piers Fawkes, PSFK on November 9, 2010. @piers_fawkes

Some of you may know that PSFK are working with the UN Global Pulse team on a new Future Of report that is due out in December. The access to realtime information to make instant decisions is of critical importance to a humanitarian organization that responds to natural, political and social events that impact populations.

The Global Pulse Director Robert Kirkpatrick delivered a briefing recently to the United Nations General Assembly that explained three ways the Global Pulse team were going to access realtime data:

First, …. we already have 39 early warning systems within the UN system that contain valuable high-frequency real-time data. This data is currently used primarily for sector-specific monitoring, so we see a significant opportunity here to bring together key data from different systems to better understand the cross-sectoral impacts of crises.

We also see enormous progress in the use of mobile phones and other technologies to accelerate collection of data otherwise collected on paper. The recent census exercise has shown that many governments are already using these new approaches. We see here an opportunity for high-value South-South collaboration in refining, sharing, and mainstreaming the use of these tools to improve efficiency and agility. Finally, there is a great deal of real-time information that is being generated by development programs and services that can be used for vulnerability analysis

In countries around the world, for example, mobile phones are now being used to send remittances, redeem food vouchers, provide guidance to new mothers, share agricultural price information between farmers and offer educational assistance to children. To monitor and evaluate the performance of these services, the government ministries and UN agencies often collect statistical information about how these services are used. We believe that governments can more deeply analyze this data to detect the early signals that vulnerable populations may be in trouble. Once a pattern of concern has emerged, governments could then rapidly send teams to those communities to conduct household surveys, to collect the hard statistical evidence needed for policy responses.

Global Pulse: Informal Briefing to the United Nations General Assembly

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