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UN opens digital early-warning system in Kampala

UN opens digital early-warning system in Kampala

Global Pulse Leader Kirkpatrick taking PM Rugunda around the project in Kampala

Uganda has become the first African country and third in the world to host the United Nations Global Pulse Lab, with a mission to accelerate discovery, development and scaled adoption of data innovation for sustainable development and humanitarian action.

It has been set up in Uganda as an inter-agency initiative supporting the UN to help Government and development partners better understand the impact of socio-economic crises on Ugandan populations, for better policy options and service delivery efforts.

Apart from Pulse Lab Kampala, Global Pulse has set up in Jakarta Indonesia as well as its headquarters in New York, US.

The project depends on information from a wide array of sources such as from international and local online news sources, radio content, publicly accessible blogs, forum posts, comments, public social media content; and in some cases transactional data from the use of digital sources such as mobile money transactions or data from cell towers revealing broad mass movement.

“The data is anonymised, analysed and utilised to understand human behaviour, inform policy formulation, global development and humanitarian action. Analyses of this information is advantageous in enhancing early warning and detecting anomalies; enhancing real time awareness by providing an up-to-date picture of events and provides a rapid impact evaluation thereby improving general social service delivery,”notes a statement from

The UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Eziakonwa-Onochie, said: “Uganda was selected to host Pulse Lab Kampala because of the country’s reputation as an early adopter of innovations”.  She highlighted the strategic relevance of the initiative to support the UN’s Delivering As One process.

The governments of Sweden and Denmark are supporting the project and their respective envoys Urban Andersson for Sweden and Dan Frederiksen of Denmark, respectively attended the launch.

Rugunda explained that information gathered and analysed promises to help improve disease surveillance and thereby curb diseases outbreaks:

“Constant population movements have increased the risk of disease outbreaks previously eradicated from Uganda, such as polio; increased populations have led to the reduction of arable land, thus leading to food shortages,” Dr Rugunda noted.

He added that encroachment on gazetted land in wetlands, mountain slopes and game parks led to increased incidences of natural disasters such as floods, landslides and epidemics including Ebola, as well as other socio-economic upsets.

“Pulse Lab Kampala offers us the opportunity to harness new data and technologies to detect – in real-time – the changing population behaviour in response to crises,” Rugunda added.
Categories analysis

Kampala Pulse Lap wrote on its site that; “We first look at which topics there is most discussion about, and the context in which these topics are being mentioned. Healthcare, education and jobs dominate the discussion, partly reflecting the youthful demographic of U-reporters.

These are consistently the most discussed issues across the country, though there are regional differences-for example, the frequency of discussion about healthcare tends to be slightly higher in rural areas such as Karamoja, whereas jobs are discussed slightly more in urban areas such as Kampala and Mbarara.”

Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis, Pulse Lab Kampala’s Manager, said that the project will focus on six major projects this year. These are:

Using Big Data Analytics to Put People’s Voices at the Centre of Development in Uganda

Strengthening Preparedness to Combat Infectious Disease Outbreaks in Uganda

Mobility Calendars for Food Security and Livelihoods Analysis

Making Ugandan Community Radio Machine-Readable Using Speech Recognition Technology

Strengthening Accountability of Aid Delivery in Northern Uganda

Supporting Mobile-based Cassava Disease Monitoring in Karamoja.



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