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Robert Kirkpatrick GIVAS Project Manager Executive Office of the Secretary-General United Nations Headquarters New York. What is GIVAS?. GIVAS is a global decision support network created to.

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Robert Kirkpatrick GIVAS Project Manager Executive Office of the Secretary-General

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Robert Kirkpatrick

GIVAS Project Manager

Executive Office of the Secretary-General

United Nations Headquarters

New York

What is GIVAS?

GIVAS is a global decision support network

created to

  • Enable policymakers to take rapid and effective action to protect the vulnerable in response to emerging complex global crises

  • Provide evidence for advocacy to ensure that the plight of the vulnerable remains the object of global attention

How has the nature global crises changed?

  • Sudden onset

  • Fast infection rates

  • Infodemics

  • Cross-border

  • Cross-sector

  • New population groups

  • Overlapping multiple crises

  • Complex feedback loops


  • Recent events have revealed a wide information gap between onset of these new crises and the availability of actionable information to policymakers.

Questions we cannot yet answer on a global scale

  • Who is being affected by these crises, and how?

  • How are they coping?

  • How well are our current policies working?

  • What faint, early signals should we be listening for today?

Why GIVAS now?

  • Data is back, data is sexy

  • Mobile phone revolution

  • New tools for

    • Data collection

    • Data fusion

    • Filtering

    • Analysis

    • Mapping

    • Visualization

    • Alerting

    • Collaboration

  • New ways to combine human and machine intelligence

  • New approaches to harnessing the power of collective action.

  • Emerging global culture of sustainable grassroots technology innovation

What value will GIVAS add?

  • Quick-time and real-time actionable information

  • Cross-sectoral focus

  • Collaboration across disciplines, regions, and organizations

  • Integrate, enhance, and filter information already available

  • Hub for Southern Innovation

What is GIVAS not?

  • Another data collection technology

  • A global crisis early warning or forecasting system

  • Another top-down global indicator initiative

  • A tool to rank countries on some kind of vulnerability index

  • Yet another “one-stop-shop” web portal

What information might it integrate?

  • Existing high-quality statistical data and map-based visualizations

  • Existing sector-specific surveys, rapid assessments

  • Information from existing early warning systems and M&E databases

  • Satellite imagery and remote sensing data

  • Semi-structured and unstructured information from mobile phone reporting

  • Event-based information from text mining of online content

Early ideas for platform capabilities

  • Secure, customizable online workspaces for team collaboration around streams of information

  • Users choose what information to integrate, and what reports to publish

  • Users train system to detect and interpret locally-relevant patterns of interest

  • Automated indexing, text mining, mapping, and alerting

  • Social networking for usage incentives and quality control

  • Social metadata such as tagging, clustering, rating and comments.

  • Easy-to-use tools for interactive analysis, mapping and visualization


  • Data Access

  • Data Quality

  • Data Comparability

  • Data Privacy & Misuse

  • Inadequate Baseline Data

  • Context-Specific Indicators

  • Fusing indicator & event-based information

  • Fusing quantitative and qualitative information

Operating Principles

  • Make sure the vulnerable are heard.

  • Build only where we must.

  • Local needs drive global innovation.

  • Focus on real needs of users.

  • Fail fast, fail often, and learn.

  • Make it free and open source and support open standards

  • If information is power, shared information is more powerful still.

  • Sharing requires trust, and trust takes time to build.

How do we get there?

  • Agile Development

  • Open Innovation

  • Phased Approach

  • Many Partnerships

  • Early-Adopters Program

Institutional Arrangement

  • Oversight: UN Deputy Secretary-General

  • Technical:DSG’s Technical Steering Group

  • Strategic:Inter-Agency Advisory Group

  • Leadership:Project Manager from outside

  • Team: Secondments, contract staff

  • Administration:UNOPS

  • Location:Physically separate from EOSG

  • Funding:Voluntary contributions from a broad range of Member States

Current Partners

  • 27+ UN agencies, including UNICEF, UNDP, The World Bank, WHO, WFP, UNFPA, and OCHA

  • Harvard University, Rutgers University, Columbia University, IDS

  • The Rockefeller Foundation, The UN Foundation, The Meridian Institute

  • The Open Mobile Consortium

Progress to date

  • Late April 2009

    • Project start

  • September 2009

    • First Baseline Report to UN General Assembly and G20

    • Website launch (

    • Concept film to facilitate outreach

    • Video testimonies by people impacted by the crisis in Bangladesh, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Romania and Uruguay

  • December 2009

    • Launch of Rapid Impact and Vulnerability Analysis Fund (RIVAF)

  • January 2010

    • Selection of 9 proposals for funding

  • March 2010

    • Hiring of GIVAS Project Manager

  • RIVAF Round One

    • Launched December 2009, proposals selected January 2010

    • Support UN agency efforts to collect and analyze quick-time data

    • Encourages joint funding approach

    • 1-Year timeframe, preliminary data by May 15, 2010.

    • Initial studies on unsafe migration, crime, maternal health, women’s empowerment, women’s labor, disaster impacts, tourism, nutrition, food security, household coping strategies, and education

    • Global, regional, and national coverage: Jordan, Egypt, Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Nepal.

    Inputs to Analytical Framework

    • Outputs from RIVAF studies

    • Collaboration with WFP, Columbia University, and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to inventory and evaluate existing early warning systems

    • UN University analysis of vulnerability definitions across communities of practice

    • Paper on best practices and lessons learned from early warning and impact monitoring systems

    • Planned survey of existing mobile phone data collection initiatives

    • Planned survey of existing databases (government, UN, NGO, academe, industry) to assess utility as baseline data

    Milestones: 2010

    • April – October

      • Series of 4 workshops on requirements, challenges, opportunities, and platform design: Blue Sky Thinkers, Member States, UN agencies, and technologists.

  • May – December

    • Series of Innovation Camps (3 planned for Africa, Asia, and US)

  • June

    • First RIVAF outputs to be used in 2nd GIVAS Report

    • First design prototypes and user scenarios published

  • September

    • GIVAS Team reaches 10 members (project staff, secondments)

  • November

    • First live technology demo of GIVAS Platform capabilities

      • visualization

      • collaborative analysis

      • pattern detection

  • Milestones: 2011

    • March

      • Limited beta testing of integrated system with Early Adopters

  • June

    • Open public Beta Test (English only)

  • Aug

    • Public HTTP/REST APIs to support mash-ups

  • September

    • Public support for 2 additional official UN languages

  • October

    • Localization kit for developers

  • November

    • Mobile GIVAS client (Android? WinMo7? iPhone?)

  • December

    • Public support for all 6 official UN languages

  • Thank you!

    • Email: [email protected]

    • Mobile: +1 650.796.5709

    • Skype: robertkirkpatrick

    • Facebook: rgkirkpatrick

    • LinkedIn: rgkirkpatrick

    • Twitter:rgkirkpatrick

    • GChat:rgkirkpatrick


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