This report summarizes the 2015 achievements of Pulse Lab Kampala and provides a glimpse into the long-term projects and agenda in the field of big data innovation for development and humanitarian action.
PULSE LAB KAMPALA
I N N O V A T I O N D R I V E R
E C O S Y S T E M C A T A L Y S T
R E S E A R C H
D E V E L O P M E N T
B I G D A T A
I N N O V A T I O N D R I V E R
E C O S Y S T E M C A T A L Y S T
F O R E W O R D
P R I O R I T I E S F O R
P U L S E L A B K A M P A L A
I N T H E R E G I O N
3 E X E C U T I V E S U M M A R Y
13 D O N O R S A N D
P A R T N E R S
The launch of the Global Goals signifies a renewed
commitment by member states of the United Nations to
strive for a world without hunger and poverty. A world in
which all children go to school and adults have a job to go
to. A world where the earth’s biodiversity is protected and
adaptations to deal with the impact of climate change are
made. A world full of hope. Together we aim to make this a
reality by 2030. In order to achieve the Global Goals and for
the United Nations to Deliver as One, information is needed
to track and monitor the progress made. And that is where
Pulse Lab Kampala, as part of the Global Pulse Network,
comes in. The Pulse Lab Kampala tools and projects deliver
real-time insight and feedback on the Global Goals. Pulse
Lab in Kampala boosts the efficiency and effectiveness
of UN in Uganda. The Resident Coordinator’s office looks
forward to continuing to work with Pulse Lab Kampala in
achieving the Global Goals and invites you to have a look at
the innovative and exciting tools and projects developed by
Pulse Lab Kampala in 2015.
UN Resident Coordinator a.i. Uganda
requires an environment that favours sustainable development.This in turn entails continuous improvements
to the political, social and economic conditions of the country by aligning government policies and strategies
with the development goals of the National Development Plan. This plan calls for a strong collaboration
between the government, the private sector, civil society, development partners and academia. These
institutions need to orient their development efforts towards achieving the plan’s objectives and the country’s
vision to accelerate socio-economic transformation. Throughout this report various projects in which the
Government of Uganda collaborates with Pulse Lab Kampala will be summarized.The Government of Uganda
will continue to harness Big Data innovations to successfully achieve the National Development Plan and the
Global Goals together with Pulse Lab Kampala.
Senior Presidential Advisor on Finance and Planning &
Head of the Delivery Unit – Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda
When the Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the
Prime Minister of Uganda, officially opened
the doors of Pulse Lab Kampala to the public
in January 2015, he expressed the hope and
desire of the Ugandan Government to have
innovations not just originate from outside
the country to be adopted in Uganda, but for
innovations to happen in Uganda. That is why
the Government of Uganda supports the tools
and projects developed at Pulse Lab Kampala.
Hosting a Global Pulse Lab in Uganda greatly
contributes to Uganda finding local solutions to
local challenges. The Government of Uganda,
through the National Development Plan, is
In 2015 the Global Pulse Network, through Pulse Lab Kampala, has been fully engaged in the implementation
Pulse Lab Kampala carried out various interventions in support of the Global Goals and established itself as a
regional leader in Big Data innovation.
In 2015, Pulse Lab Kampala executed six innovation projects together with UN partners, facilitated more
than ten data science partnerships with the private sector and academia and served as a technical adviser to
national entities around the region. During the year, the Lab was fully consolidated as one of the three labs
under the umbrella of the Global Pulse Network, along with Pulse Lab New York and Pulse Lab Jakarta.
In September 2015, Member States of the UN reached an historic agreement to adopt 17 goals for a
development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The new goals are global in
nature, universally applicable, and address the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic,
the social and the environmental.The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, also recognize
that new and innovative tools are necessary to complement traditional policy-making methodologies for this
This new development agenda provides a framework for Pulse Lab Kampala’s objectives in supporting UN
partners towards the delivery of results in Uganda. Utilizing the data revolution is a critical enabler of the
Global Goals, not only to monitor progress but also to inclusively engage stakeholders at all levels to advance
evidence-based policies and programmes and to reach the most vulnerable.
This report summarizes the 2015 achievements of Pulse Lab Kampala and provides a glimpse into the long-
term projects and agenda in the field of Big Data innovation for development and humanitarian action.
“Pulse Lab Kampala has achieved important milestones
in 2015. Within one year of officially opening its doors
the Lab is a point of reference showing the country, the
region and the world how to tap into new digital data
sources to monitor and achieve the Global Goals”.
Pulse Lab Kampala Manager
“The true test of commitment to the 2030 Agenda will be implementation. We need action from everyone,
everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and
planet, and a blueprint for success…”
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
2. ECOSYSTEM CATALYST
• Contribute to the development of regulatory frameworks and technical stan-
dards to address data sharing and privacy protection challenges.
• Engage key stakeholders on prioritizing an innovation agenda.
• Provide public sector organisations with policy guidance and technical assistance
to strengthen their capacity for integrating real-time insights into operations.
1. INNOVATION DRIVER
• Implement data innovation programmes to provide UN and development part-
ners with access to the data, tools and expertise required to discover new uses
of Big Data for development.
• Develop toolkits, applications and platforms to improve data-driven deci-
sion-making and support the evaluation of promising results.
PRIORITIES FOR PULSE LAB KAMPALA ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT
Priorities for Pulse Lab Kampala are informed by the Global Pulse two-track strategy, the Uganda UNDAF and
the newly adopted Global Goals. The Lab fulfils its objectives by acting in the following capacities:
PULSE LAB KAMPALA EXPLORES HOW TO USE DIGITAL DATA SOURCES AND TECHNIQUES WITH:
Mobile data: The rapid increase in cell phone users has made available one of the rich-
est sources of new data. Potential applications vary from disaster response to transport
planning and response to disease outbreaks.
Satellite imagery: The cost of high-resolution image acquisition is falling, while the
availability of images and the capacity for automated processing are increasing. There
are many applications for such data across multiple goals, such as the monitoring of
poverty, measurement of wetland degradation, and assessment of public service deliv-
ery. It can also support predictive modelling for disease outbreaks, count populations
living in slums as well as evaluate the impact of cash transfer programmes.
Crowd-sourced data: Global connectivity has created the opportunity for wide-scale
participation in data collection and processing, with applications in roadmapping, land
cover classification, human rights monitoring, price tracking, species inventorying, and
disaster response planning. New uses are unfolding regularly.
PULSE LAB KAMPALA OPENING ITS DOORS
Top photo from left to right: Charles Obiero, UNESCO, Ali Abdi, IOM Chief of Mission, Neimah Warsame, UNHCR Country
Representative, H.E. Kristian Schmidt, EU Ambassador, H.E. Dan Frederiksen, Danish Ambassador, Ahunna Eziakonwa-
Onochie, UN Resident Coordinator, Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of Uganda, Robert Kirkpatrick, UN
Global Pulse Director, Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis, Pulse Lab Kampala Manager, H.E. Anders Urban Andersson, Swedish
Ambassador, H.E Park Jong Dae, South Korean Ambassador, Esperance Fundira, UNFPA Country Representative and
Biriyai Theophilus, OHCHR Deputy Country Representative.
Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, presided over the grand opening
of Pulse Lab Kampala on 29 January 2015.
I N N O V AT I O N D R I V E R
USING DATA ANALYSIS AND VISUALIZATIONS TO SUPPORT RESPONSE TO DISEASE
Pulse Lab Kampala became a member of theTyphoid NationalTask Force formed to support
rapid response to the typhoid outbreak that occurred in Uganda in early 2015. Under
the leadership of the Ministry of Health, the Lab developed innovative data analysis and
interactive data visualization tools that analyzed dynamic data from various databases of
“…. the visualizations produced by Pulse Lab Kampala
have been tremendously helpful to the Ministry of Health.
The field teams have used the visualization to identify the
hotspots of the typhoid outbreak by district, sub-county
and even health centre. This has enabled the ministry to
prioritize which areas of the country, and which health
centres, to allocate resources to, including medicine,
medical personnel and training…”
Monica Musenero Masanza, Assistant Commissioner, Epi-
demiology and Surveillance, Ministry of Health (2015).
PULSE LAB KAMPALA’S INNOVATION PROJECTS
of the Ministry of Health databases. Big Data Analytics were used to correct for missing
data within the DHIS2 database, produce data visualizations and establish correlations with
risk factors such as population density and human mobility. These tools helped to inform
decision-making for the allocation of medicine, medical personnel and training for health
workers. The Lab aims to develop an application that will be incorporated into DHIS2 and
will be available for other countries in the region using the same type of health information
system. More information: healthdataanalytics.unglobalpulse.net/uganda
Pulse Lab Kampala innovation projects begin with brainstorming sessions held with UN and development
partners. A multi-disciplinary team then designs and conducts the analysis and develops prototypes in close
collaboration with the end-user. Finally, project findings are evaluated and published openly to enhance
knowledge across the Pulse Lab Network and the wider community.
This report showcases the projects and tools developed by Pulse Lab Kampala in 2015.
Tool showing precise outbreak locations in
IMPROVING KNOWLEDGE SHARING WITH INTERACTIVE VISUALIZATIONS
Pulse Lab Kampala created interactive, visualizations to present the results of a Governance
and Peace Poll (GaP) by UNDP and the Government of Ghana, in a more user-friendly way.
The GaP Poll is a public opinion survey to track progress in governance and peace through-
out the country. The visualizations by Pulse Lab Kampala allow viewers to explore the data
from three surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 and to easily access trends, geographical
distribution and gender analysis. These visualizations present the results of the surveys in a
user-friendly, thus supporting knowledge sharing. The Lab collaborated on the project with
UNDP and the Government of Ghana. More information: gappoll.unglobalpulse.net/ghana
USING REAL-TIME MONITORING TO TRACK IMPLEMENTATION OF HIV&AIDS TREATMENT
As part of the UN Joint Programme ‘Support for AIDS’, Pulse Lab Kampala is designing an
application to monitor, in real time, the implementation of Option B+ in Uganda. The Option
B+ programme prevents expectant mothers living with HIV from passing on the virus to their
unborn children. This application is designed to track service delivery and performance of
health centres involved in the implementation of Option B+. The evidence-based visualiza-
tion and analysis of data collected in the Health Management Information System (HMIS)
will inform the decisions of the national team tasked with eliminating mother to child trans-
mission (eMTCT). In a second phase of the project, correlations between treatment drop-out
rates, and different social factors, such as dealing with the stigma of having HIV, distance of
travel to the health centres or medication stock outs, will be explored. The project is being
implemented under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and UNAIDS.
Users can filter results of polls by selecting one of the thee surveys, selecting a question
from the survey and choosing a response category for that question. Results can then be
analyzed by region of the country and compared over time and across a gender break-
USING MOBILE PHONE DATA TO DETECT CHANGES IN LIVELIHOODS
Pulse Lab Kampala participated in the Data for Development Challenge by Orange Telecom
and partners, with a special focus on Senegal. The Lab received the second award under the
agriculture category for its ‘Mobility profiles and calendars for food security and livelihoods
analysis’ that was developed in partnership with Politécnica University of Madrid and the UN
World Food Programme (WFP). In this study, population movement in 2013 was quantified
using anonymized mobile phone data. Movement patterns among population groups were
extracted and visualized, resulting in a series of mobility profiles of the different regions of
Senegal. These mobility profiles were compared with agricultural cycles and livelihoods of
each region. Results of this analysis showed that for vulnerable population groups, changes in
mobility patterns could indicate changes in livelihoods or coping strategies, as well as expo-
sure to new shocks. Monitoring such changes in real-time could be a powerful early warning
mechanism for informed decision-making and rapid response for humanitarian interventions.
USING AIRTIME CREDIT PURCHASES TO DETECT SHOCKS
The Uganda National Household survey collects data to estimate and monitor the level of
household poverty in the country. Data for multiple proxy indicators of poverty has been col-
lected on a regular basis since 1989. In these surveys one of the proxy indicators of poverty is
Air time & service fee for owned fixed/mobile phones. Pulse Lab Kampala, along with partners
in the private sector has explored the development of an application that monitors real-time
airtime expenditure. This data is visualized in a dashboard, illustrating expenditure of airtime
over time per district. This a unique exercise and something that has never been done before
in Uganda. This application could be used to detect shocks at an early stage. A validation
workshop was conducted with stakeholders from Government, the UN, private sector, aca-
demia, donor community and civil society. Their feedback was used to better understand the
biases of the data, the analysis and the potential uses of this new data.
USING AUTOMATED ROOF COUNTINGTO MONITOR
be used to monitor poverty trends. In northern Ugan-
da, where poverty levels are high and the majority of
the population lives in rural areas, a proxy indicator
of poverty is roofing material. As household econo-
mies improve, families often upgrade their homes by
changing from traditional grass-thatch to iron sheets
roofs. Pulse Lab Kampala uses satellite imagery to
identify the roofs and has developed an image pro-
cessing software to count the roofs and identify the
type of material they are constructed from.The tool
and methodology complement existing statistical tools that use surveys and primary data collec-
tion to assess poverty levels. The project is in collaboration with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics,
UNDP, the University of Edinburgh and private sector partners. A pilot will be conducted in 2016
in collaboration with the National Planning Authority. Read more: http://www.unglobalpulse.org/
Satellite image of automtically identified roofs.
Mobile phone and text messages
Mobile phone call detail records
Pulse Lab Kampala is contributing to the development of toolkits that can continuously be adapted to provide
insight for new challenges. These toolkits include guidance or technology capabilities for collecting, storing,
aggregating, anonymizing, combining, analyzing, visualizing and collaborating around data science and digital
data.The toolkits were initially developed for a specific end-user or dataset, but can be adapted to new projects
and purposes. In 2015, Pulse Lab Kampala contributed to the development of the following toolkits:
BIG DATA ANALYTICS TOOLKIT
Mobile phone transactions
SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYTICS
Pulse Lab Kampala and UNFPA collaborated on a project to explore the use of social media to understand the
debate among Ugandans on contraception and teenage pregnancy, and to analyze perceptions towards dif-
ferent types of contraception.The project resulted in a real-time interactive tool that analyzes public Facebook
posts for keywords related to contraception and teenage pregnancy. The tool allows for tracking of emerg-
ing and trending topics and perceptions related to family planning on a month-by-month basis. This project
demonstrated the potential of using social media data to supplement traditional means of gaining insights;
like the less-frequently held national surveys. More information: familyplanning.unglobalpulse.net/uganda
ONLINE PUBLIC CONTENT ANALYSIS
Pulse Lab Kampala developed a toolkit to analyze public online content that can aid partners in monitoring and
analyzing web content in a targeted manner. With the digital age starting in earnest in Africa, the toolkit – enti-
tled Paper Scraper – searches the web for content of interest (such as articles, blogs etc) and provides a detailed
report to interested partners. The tool was developed in collaboration with the UNDP Innovation facility.
CITIZENS REPORTING ANALYSIS
As part of the Post-2015 development agenda, Pulse Lab Kampala worked with UNICEF to explore the use of
real-time digital data to understand the development priorities of Ugandan youth by analyzing U-report mes-
sages. U-report, UNICEF’s social platform, is a free SMS-based application that enables Ugandans to participate
in policymaking and governance by sharing their experiences and opinions. The project analyzed 3.1 million
U-report messages, demonstrating how data science can enhance the utility of mobile SMS-based applications.
The success of this approach is being replicated by other labs in the Global Pulse Network.
More information: post2015.unglobalpulse.net/uganda
Pulse Lab Kampala has developed a toolkit to analyze patterns of population movement using data derived
from mobile phone network operations. The tool can be used to support prediction modelling of disease out-
breaks or to develop disaster early warning applications. The software visualizes population movements in and
out of various locations and was developed from aggregated mobile phone call detail records (CDRs).
SPEECH-TO-TEXT TOOLKIT - ANALYZING RADIO CON-
Radio is a vibrant medium for public discussion in
Uganda. Talk shows and phone-ins hosted by radio
stations are popular ways for Ugandans, in particu-
lar in rural areas, to voice their needs, concerns and
opinions. Analysis of public radio content therefore
presents an opportunity to‘take the pulse’of popula-
tions excluded by the digital divide. In 2015, import-
ant milestones were achieved in developing a toolkit
that makes public radio broadcasts machine-read-
able through the use of speech recognition tech-
nology and translation tools (for three languages:
SPATIAL DATA FOR BIODIVERSITY PLANNING
Pulse Lab Kampala built a tool that makes spatial data accessible to policy makers for the protection of biodi-
versity in Zimbabwe. The lab collaborated in this initiative with the Government of Zimbabwe, UNDP and the
National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans Forum (NBSAP). Also known as geospatial data or geographic
information, spatial data is information that identifies the geographic location of natural or constructed features
and boundaries on the earth. The tool was successfully used to inform the National Biodiversity Plan for Zimba-
bwe. Discussions were held with other UN partners interested in developing similar technologies including the
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). More information:
guages: Ugandan English, Luganda and Acholi). The toolkit transforms radio content into text and will allow
end-users to search for specific topics of interest. To implement the project, Pulse Lab Kampala partnered with
the Government of Sweden, Stellenbosch University and Makerere University. More information: radio.un-
Tool highlighting fires in protected areas in Zimbabwe in 2014.
E C O S Y S T E M C ATA LY S T
In 2015, Pulse Lab Kampala continued to act as an ecosystem catalyst with a focus on Africa.The Lab gave key-
note presentations at five regional conferences on data innovation, met with more than twenty UN-agencies,
development partners and donors and the Lab conducted learning sessions for UN partners and workshops
for government and academic partners.
Private sector companies automatically generate but do not in general actively use digital data for develop-
ment or humanitarian purposes. However, this data can be a source of additional information to implement
and monitor the Global Goals. Pulse Lab Kampala continues to encourage collaboration with the private sec-
tor in order to secure access to Big Data that can be used for the greater good. In 2015, Pulse Lab Kampala
collaborated with several partners that provided data sets or granted access to data streams for data innova-
Mobile phone data: Pulse Lab Kampala made progress in entering into partnership with two telecommuni-
cations companies in Uganda.
Retail data: One of the largest supermarket chains in Uganda agreed to provide retail data to be used in an
innovations challenge organized by Pulse Lab Kampala.
Public Utility data: Data collected from a leading utility company was shared with the Lab to be used in data
projects with the Kampala city planning authority and development partners. The data, collected over a one-
year period, contains water consumption details and call-centre records. This information has been aggregat-
ed and anonymized and could be used to allow for better planning at city and regional level to ensure the
needs of citizens are met in an efficient way.
DATA SCIENCE NETWORK
Pulse Lab Kampala continues to build strong relationships with universities that contribute to data innovation
projects on a pro-bono basis. Promoting South-South cooperation, Pulse Lab Kampala has continued to work
with Makerere University and Stellenbosch University.
Collaborations have been consolidated with the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield in the UK. New part-
nerships are under development with the Centre for Innovation, Leiden University in The Netherlands as well
as with Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri, Kenya.
DATA INNOVATION SEMINARS
Pulse Lab Kampala collaborates with Makerere University in conducting weekly seminars on artificial intelli-
gence and data science. The seminars are organized on a regular basis and the Lab hosts one every month.
These seminars are attended by around forty students presenting and sharing their research ideas and brain-
storming on cutting edge tools and technologies.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016
In 2015, Pulse Lab Kampala proved its capabilities and the potential of data science for development in the
region. The Lab established itself as an innovation driver, designing and developing tailored projects and
toolkits to analyze different types of digital data in real-time ensuring that the privacy of individuals and com-
munities is safeguarded. In 2016, the Lab aims to expand the pool of projects and collaborations with current
and new stakeholders to support the monitoring and achievement of the Global Goals.
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter @PulseLabKampala.
Pulse Lab Kampala, together with the University of Sheffield
in the UK, Makerere University in Kampala and Dedan Kiman-
thi University in Uganda, hosted the first Workshop on Data
Science in Africa in mid-2015. The event gathered some fifty
students over a three-day summer school on data science fol-
lowed by two days of discussions and expert presentations on
how data science can be applied to fundamental issues in Af-
rica. Based on the success of this first workshop, a second one
will be organized in June 2016 in Kampala, Uganda.
More information: http://datascienceafrica.org/dsa2016
KEYNOTES FOR DATA INNOVATION
In 2015 Pulse Lab Kampala hosted one validation workshop and was a guest at various events and confer-
ences in Uganda and the rest of the world. Some highlights were:
• ‘Why Data? Why all development actors should be part of the Data Revolution’ conference organized by
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Pulse Lab Kampala demonstrated how the op-
portunities of Big Data and Big Data Analytics can best be harnessed for the public good.
• ‘Sustainable Development Goals in middle income and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS): a perspec-
tive from Africa’ conference organized by the Government of Cape Verde and UNDP regional centre for
Africa. Pulse Lab Kampala contributed by presenting Big Data tools that can support the achievement of
the Global Goals by 2030.
• ‘Use of mobile technology for statistical processes’conference organized by UN Economic Commission for
Africa in Addis Ababa, during which Pulse Lab Kampala illustrated how Big Data and mobile technology
can be leveraged for official statistics.
Pulse Lab Kampala is supported by the Government of Uganda, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office and the
UN Country Team in Uganda. Past and current donors include: the Royal Danish Embassy in Uganda and the
Embassy of Sweden in Uganda, UNDP and the UNDAF Innovation Facility.
O U R D O N O R S
Government of Uganda
the Royal Danish Embassy in Uganda
O U R PA R T N E R S
Innovation projects and tools could not have been developed without the following supporters:
Government partners: The Government of Ghana, the Government of Zimbabwe
UN partners: UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, WHO
Academic partners: Makerere University (Uganda), the University of Edinburgh (UK), Stellenbosch University
(South Africa) and Politécnica University of Madrid (Spain).
Global forums: National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans Forum.
Government of ZimbabweGovernment of Ghana
U N I T E D N AT I O N S G L O B A L P U L S E
Global Pulse is an innovation initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General. Its mission is to
accelerate discovery, development and scaled adoption of Big Data innovation for sustainable development
and humanitarian action. Pulse Lab Kampala is a data innovation lab under the umbrella of the UN Global
Pulse initiative, together with Pulse Lab New York and Pulse Lab Jakarta. Pulse Lab New York was launched in
2009 and Pulse Lab Jakarta was established in 2012. The labs work together on Big Data innovation projects
I N N O V A T I O N D R I V E R
E C O S Y S T E M C A T A L Y S T
D E V E L O P M E N T
R E S E A R C H
B I G D A T A