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Analysing social media for better policymaking

T.C. Seow | Oct. 12, 2012
Global Pulse collaborates with SAS Indonesia to explore analysing online conversations to support faster, better targeting of national social protection programs.

Governments and lawmakers around the world might be able to make better decisions if there is a way to distil insights from the chatter created online via social media. That is the objective of Global Pulse, an initiative of the UN Secretary-General. It aims to harness digital data and real-time analytics to gain a better understanding of changes in human well-being, and access to better information sooner in order to keep international development on track, protect the world's most vulnerable populations, and strengthen resilience to global shocks.

In March 2012, SAS and Global Pulse collaborated on a joint research study and discovered that mood and sentiment analysis of public social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs could be used to warn policymakers of pending unemployment spikes.

Now, SAS and Global Pulse have again partnered to explore how analysis of online conversation about food prices, fuel prices and unemployment could support faster, better targeting of national social protection programs. This round, two years of digital data from social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, hundreds of blogs, forums and news sites have been collected and analysed with SAS Social Media Analytics and SAS Text Miner.

Robert Kirkpatrick, director of Global Pulse, said: "Through its contribution of analytics tools, access to sources of big data, and human expertise, our continued collaboration with SAS has been tremendous in helping us explore how analysis of new, digital data sources can help us better understand how communities are coping."

"Our task is to assist Global Pulse in supporting the work of government in the use of emerging technologies such as text analytics and social media analytics for the protection of vulnerable populations in the country," said Erwin Sukiato, country manager of SAS Indonesia.

At a launch event recently for Global Pulse's innovation lab in Indonesia – called "Pulse Lab Jakarta" – SAS demonstrated the analytics workflow by monitoring more than 200,000 online Indonesian documents created every day; extracting relevant discussion on rice, cooking oil, fuel and employment; and capturing sentiment and mood of social media content.

In addition, the tools used will also help detect location, price, availability, and specific government programs, and to explore results with graphs, statistics, charts and demographics.

Pulse Lab Jakarta is a hub for testing, researching and applying the latest innovations to local development challenges. It was launched in October 2012 through a partnership between the United Nations and the Government of Indonesia's Ministry of Development Planning.

According to SAS, its Social Media Analytics is a solution that could capture several months data, along with online reviews from traditional sites and other social media sites, then categorised and then load the data into a decision support environment. The data is then integrated with offline attributes such as official statistics, and other online metrics into policymaker-centric criteria. It enables policymakers to turn insight into action by gaining access to information they can act on through a user friendly media intelligence portal.


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