Several members of the UN Global Pulse spoke with us at Data & Society about big data and development.  UN Global Pulse is an innovation initiative of the UN.  They bring together the data, innovation and tools, and the problem statements come from UN partners.


They see a lot of opportunities in the big data space, including enhancement of early warning (like predicting a financial meltdown), real-time awareness (by following a tool like Twitter), and real-time evaluation (such as getting as seeing the immediate effects of an intervention of program rather than just waiting for the evaluation or summary analysis).


The impact of big, real-time data tracking and analysis sounds like it could be revolutionary for the UN and other philanthropic organizations supporting communities, projects, governments, etc.


But, who is currently the holder of some of the most useful, meaningful real-time data?  Companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook – commercial entities.  As you can imagine, there is a lot of complexities associated with the use of this data.  At just the tip of the iceberg, you have legal issues, privacy concerns, and access issues.  Who can get to the commercial data and for what purpose is unclear at the moment.


More and conversations are coming together around the concept of data philanthropy and I can see a role libraries may be able to play in support of commercial data for good.  Look for a post from me soon focuses in data philanthropy.


We also talked about the difficulties in getting UN data itself to be more open for others to use.  Countries may have concerns or may be unhappy with their incomplete data.