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Data-Pop Alliance is a global coalition on Big Data and development created by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Media Lab, and Overseas Development Institute that brings together researchers, experts, practitioners, and activists to promote a people-centered Big Data revolution through collaborative research, capacity building, and community engagement.

We saw three main challenges to overcome, which have provided the rationale for creating Data-Pop Alliance, to ensure that Big Data serves the interests of people across the globe, especially those of poor and vulnerable populations:

  1. a scientific-technological bias in many Big Data discussions, at the expense of more careful consideration of the sociopolitical implications—including ethical and human rights dimensions
  2. poor institutional connectivity between humanitarians, development actors, data and computer scientists, and ethicists, characterized and caused by the lack of mechanisms to facilitate knowledge sharing
  3. limited political channels and technical capacities for the primary producers and users of data—local communities and groups, governmental bodies and officials, researchers, journalists—to be engaged fully and systematically in shaping the Big Data revolution.
October 2015: WIRED2015
“Alex “Sandy” Pentland on taking action with big data”
Alex “Sandy” Pentland, Academic Director for MIT Media Lab of Data-Pop Alliance, is a pioneer in organisational engineering, mobile information systems and computational social science.

July 2015: The MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth
“Democratizing Big Data Starts with Dialogue: Q&A with Emmanuel Letouzé”
The Data-Pop Alliance director and co-founder discusses how the understanding of the relationship between Big Data and human rights is evolving.

May 2015: Devex
“Big data to create new ecosystem of decision-makers”
Big data is not data, but rather a new ecosystem with a variety of stakeholders, skill sets and mentalities — one with the potential to fundamentally change societies much in same the way the Internet has, according to Emmanuel Letouzé, director and co-founder of Data-Pop Alliance.

April 2015: KDnuggets
“Emmanuel Letouzé, Data-Pop Alliance on Big Data and Human Rights – A Complex Affair”
We discuss the founding story of Data-Pop Alliance, the applications and implications of Big Data on Human Rights and the need for penetration of Data Literacy.

April 2015: Berkeley Social Matrix
“Data for Development”
UC Berkeley demographer (and cartoonist) Emmanuel Letouzé seeks to reduce the gap in statistical data available about populations in developing nations.

Founding Institutions


  • Connector.

    Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

    The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) is a Harvard university-wide center created in 2005 to provide expertise in public health, social science, and other disciplines to relieve human suffering in war and disaster by advancing the science and practice of humanitarian response. HHI is supported by the Office of the Provost, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the participation of Faculty from over 12 Harvard schools. Read more.

  • Connector.

    MIT Media Lab

    Established in 1985, the MIT Media Lab actively promotes a unique, antidisciplinary culture, exploring beyond known boundaries and disciplines and encouraging the most unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas. The Lab is committed to looking beyond the obvious to ask the questions not yet asked–questions whose answers could radically improve the way people live, learn, express themselves, work, and play. Read more.

  • Connector.

    Overseas Development Institute

    The Overseas Development Institute is a leading development policy think tank in the United Kingdom with an established international reputation. For 50 years the institute has been working with with public and private sector partners in developing countries to reduce poverty, alleviate suffering, and achieve sustainable livelihoods. Read more.

Funders & Supporters


  • Connector.

    The Rockefeller Foundation

    Core seed funding ($400,000) was generously provided by The Rockefeller Foundation in support of establishing Data-Pop Alliance, a global network that brings together individual and institutional actors involved in the 'Big Data Revolution' to advance common objectives through the use of new digital data and analytics tools and methods that can foster human development and societal progress. Read more.

  • Connector.

    ThoughtWorks

    Data-Pop Alliance is incubated in New York City by ThoughtWorks NY, a software company and a community of passionate, purpose-led individuals who think disruptively to deliver technology to address their clients' toughest challenges, all while seeking to revolutionize the IT industry and create positive social change. Read more.