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October 17, 2018

Cross-Post: Operationalising Mobile Phone Network Data for Development and Humanitarian Action

By | Blog

By Syed Raza, Senior Director of Data for Development at Digital Impact Alliance and Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of UN Global Pulse

How has mobile network data been used to inform policy? What building blocks need to be in place to leverage mobile phone network data for real-time policy analysis, decision making and impact tracking? UN Global Pulse and the Digital Impact Alliance are excited to host a joint-session at the UN World Data Forum in Dubai to explore the operational aspects of using mobile phone network data as a public good. At the event, we are bringing various actors from government, UN Agencies, Mobile Network Operators and NGOs to share their research and on-the-ground experience of using mobile network data to inform decision making around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and for humanitarian action.

With more than 5 billion people connected to mobile services in 2017 and projections of reaching 5.9 billion by 2025, or 71 per cent of the world’s population, the mobile phone sector has become increasingly important in helping achieve the SDGs. While the mobile industry has made great strides in supporting the SDGs, we are still far from realizing its full impact. A critical piece of the mobile industry’s impact lies in the data it generates for analysis, which governments, humanitarian and development organizations, and donors agree would be extremely beneficial to address key humanitarian issues and reach the SDGs by 2030.

Anonymised mobile network data contains information about population characteristics such as movements, density, location, social patterns, and finances. As this data is uniquely detailed and tractable, it can capture information not easily found from other sources at a scale that would be difficult to recreate through other means. Once anonymized and aggregated to appropriate levels, this data can provide a variety of insights with tremendous value for development partners, including but not limited to mobility, social interaction, and economic activity.

UN Global Pulse has developed a series of proof-of-concepts for the use of mobile network data for public good, including tracking food security, informing disaster management and understanding seasonal migration, among others. We’re working not only with mobile operators around the world, but also with their industry trade organization, the GSMA. In 2017, GSMA established an explicit strategy around putting anonymiszed mobile big data to work for the public good. There are currently 19 mobile operators who are committed to the Big Data for Social Good initiative. This is exciting for us because it shows how data philanthropy could work at an industry-wide scale, rather than with just one partner at a time.

We also strive to catalyse the use of big data for public policy and humanitarian action by advancing normative frameworks and delivering learning experiences for policy makers across the world via our network of labs. At the World Data Forum, we hope to showcase some of our work in the South Pacific with Digicel and the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, informing responses to natural disasters in these contexts and shaping our thinking on how to scale this work, as well as share the experiences of our colleagues at ITU who are using mobile network data to better understand the development of information societies.

DIAL’s Data for Development portfolio focuses on unlocking the value of private sector data (including mobile network data) in a safe, standardized manner, utilizing technical, commercial and governance-driven innovation to help achieve impact and sustainability. DIAL is working with a global network of partners including country governments, mobile network operators, technology solutions providers, donors and implementation organizations to support the building and scaling of data-driven solutions to meet the SDGs. DIAL also provides capital and operational support for development and deployment of reusable digital building blocks (e.g. software platforms, data analytics tools) that are designed once but that can be tailored to fit unique sectoral and geographical needs. This October, DIAL will share updates and key learnings from our work in Uganda and Malawi, our platform investments, and from global research by inviting our key partners to share their experiences. While each of these projects has been different in terms of focus and lessons learnt, we’ve also identified high-level synthesis items at the ecosystem level, which are helping us understand what is needed to bring the use of mobile data to scale.

UNGP and DIAL are excited to co-host this panel given the overlap of our work and the recognition that in order to scale and sustain the use of mobile network data, we must share what we’ve learned so far and increase collaborative efforts. The UN World Data Forum provides a great opportunity to elevate the conversation so that we, as a data community, can work together to make the use of mobile network data more systemic and sustainable.

We hope you join our session and bring forth your ideas so that we can further develop practices and models that safely and responsibly use mobile data for public good.

Robert Kirkpatrick is Director of UN Global Pulse, an innovation initiative of the UN Secretary-General on big data. Global Pulse’s network of innovation labs in New York, Uganda and Indonesia allow UN System partners to discover and mainstream applications of big data and AI for sustainable development and humanitarian action.


Syed Raza is the Senior Director of Data for Development at the Digital Impact Alliance, a multi-donor funded organization hosted at the United Nations Foundation. DIAL’s vision is a world in which the underserved benefit from digital technology.



Original post can be found on the UN World Data Forum blog here

September 28, 2018

The Digital Impact Alliance Opens Nomination Period for New Advisory Council

By | Newsroom

WASHINGTON – Today, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) announced the open nomination period for the first Digital Principles Advisory Council. The Advisory Council is intended to serve as an independent consultative body to DIAL and will provide guidance to shape the evolution of the Digital Principles, offer input into objectives and project investments, and reinforce DIAL’s accountability and responsibilities to the broader ICT for development (ICT4D) community as stewards of the Digital Principles.  For more details on the specific responsibilities of the Advisory Council, please review the Terms of Reference.

DIAL was named steward of the Digital Principles in 2016 and immediately began seeking counsel and perspectives from hundreds of digital development practitioners in shaping updated guidance and developing new resources for the Digital Principles. In over two years, nearly 300 individuals in the sector have been engaged on various projects, with interest continuing to grow. The Advisory Council aims to formalize the engagement process for ICT4D practitioners and enhance the community’s role in providing learnings and feedback.

“With a dedicated body of ICT4D practitioners, nominated by their colleagues and representing diverse backgrounds and regions, we are ensuring community members from around the globe have a voice,” explained Allana Nelson, Manager of the Digital Principles at DIAL. “The Advisory Council members will have a unique opportunity to provide input into our strategies, program plans, and content design and creation for all resources related to the Digital Principles.”

The eight individuals selected for the Advisory Council will represent different sectors, geographies and organizational types. Particular consideration will be given to those individuals who have experience in the Global South, reflecting the reality of where digital development programs take place, and include underrepresented voices in conversations about global goods and development best practice.

Digital development practitioners will have six weeks to publicly nominate their peers on the Principles for Digital Development Forum. Practitioners are also eligible to nominate themselves. Nominations will require consent of the person being nominated, a resume or CV, and letter of support for their selected candidate. The nomination period opens today and will close on November 9, 2018, after which a five-person Selection Committee representing diverse regions and sectors will review all candidates and determine who will sit on the first Digital Principles Advisory Council. The following individuals have been identified to serve on the Selection Committee:

  • Benjamin Grubb – Technology for Development at UNICEF, East Asia and Pacific. Benjamin contributes to technology and innovation in the humanitarian and development sector and upholds a principles-based approach to designing and deploying sustainable and user-centered solutions.
  • Catalina Escobar-Bravo – Strategy Director & Co-founder, Makaia. Catalina is a civil society leader and social entrepreneur with 18 years of experience in social sector, digital development and international cooperation.
  • Chilunga Puta – Director of BID Learning Network, PATH. Chilunga is an infectious disease research and public health practitioner with over 20 years of experience working in developing country healthcare settings.
  • Michael Downey – Director of Community for the Open Source center, DIAL. Michael’s career in IT and open source spans nearly two decades both in the healthcare and financial services industries, as well as the nonprofit world.
  • Allana Nelson – Manager for the Principles for Digital Development, DIAL. Allana spent the last ten years working in government, non-profit, and private sector organizations specializing in project management and business operations in the areas of international development, communications, and training.

DIAL anticipates to announce the selected members of the Advisory Council in mid-December and will also publish a brief overview of the process that took place and how decisions were reached.

Join the community and submit your nominations through the Principles for Digital Development Forum.


About DIAL

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) aims to realize a more inclusive digital society in emerging markets, in which all women, men and children benefit from life-enhancing, mobile-based digital services. A partnership among USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish Government and the United Nations Foundation, DIAL’s efforts help accelerate the collective efforts of government, industry and development organizations to realize this vision. In 2016, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) was named steward of the Principles for Digital Development (also known as the Digital Principles) and is charged with facilitating dialogue among the digital development community, curating the exchange of new ideas and resources, and promoting adoption and new endorsement of the Digital Principles. www.digitalimpactalliance.org.

About the Principles for Digital Development

A Principles for Digital Development Working Group launched in June 2014 to gather insights and feedback from development implementers and donor representatives on using digital technology for their programs. The Working Group was intended to enable those practitioners most likely to be impacted by, and directly influence, the implementation of digital development to interpret and define the Digital Principles. Over the course of a year, the Working Group met nine times to discuss each Principle in-depth, resulting in a shared understanding of what the Digital Principles mean in practice. More information on the Digital Principles can be found at https://digitalprinciples.org.

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