Samoa to host big data centre for the region

Samoa will finally be opening a centre for development-focused data analysis, after a scoping mission proved it can and should be done here.

Global Pulse Lab, an initiative of former United Nations Secretary General, Tupua Ban Ki Moon, uses ‘big data’ or digital information gathered concisely to make development decisions like transport and housing planning, resource distribution and even disaster management.

If all goes to plan, Samoa will host the fourth Pulse Lab to join Jakarta in Indonesia, Uganda capital Kampala and New York.

This week, Head of the Global Pulse Lab in Jakarta Ms. Derval Usher and Data Scientist Mr. Dharani Burra finished their scoping mission, and presented their findings to Government, who will take those findings to the U.N General Assembly next week in New York and make plans for opening the lab.

“Like other countries of the world, the Pacific region including Samoa lacks critical data for national development policymaking,” a press statement from the U.N reads.

“Many governments still do not have access to adequate data on their entire populations and other development sectors. 

“While there is data being collected what is lacking is sound data analysis and accessing the data is also considered as a challenge.”

Data, when looked at from a slight distance, can share trends and information invaluable to development.

The Pacific Pulse Lab will be housed at One U.N House in Tuanaimato until the Samoa Technology and Innovation Park is built by the Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology.

As a regional U.N initiative, it will also be a home for regional collaborations, such as with the Pacific Community and Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

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Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, who requested for the lab to be established, believes it would be crucial, enabling real time data analysis and an ability to track progress towards sustainable development goals in the region.

In his meeting with U.N Secretary General Antonio Guterres in May, he even raised the lab, and asked for it to be opened as quickly as possible, and that funding is secured from Australia, Ireland, and the Commonwealth Fund.

According to a press statement from the United Nations, Prime Minister Tuilaepa is “fully supported” by the United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed.

“Samoa also is an ideal location for the fourth U.N Global Pulse lab considering significant progress it has made in enhancing connectivity through submarine cables creating the pathway for digital transformation envisioning improved service delivery and quality of life for its people,” the statement said.

Resident Coordinator of the U.N in Samoa, Simona Marinescu, has been driving the scoping and establishment of the Pulse Lab.

Head of the Jakarta Pulse Lab, Derval Usher was in Samoa just last year to bring the Pulse Lab concept to Pacific countries during a regional meeting.

She gave the example of public transport as a way big data can solve massive problems.

Using social media like Twitter, the lab is able to gather location data and track exactly where people are travelling to and from.

“Jakarta’s public transport system is heaving,” Ms Usher said.

“By mapping common routes digitally, we were able to feed that back to city planners so that bus routes can be better planned.”

With more up-to-date data, policies will be effective because they are based in hard evidence, she said.

Partner governments and businesses can build up their platforms however they like.

“It’s just a platform so you can have a consumer feedback mechanism, direct alerts to people through the mobile carriers, citizens reporting in during a disaster,” she added.

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